Becoming the Pick of the Pack

Steve Clayton, Inc. of Talent which has made guitar picks for key players, plans to expand
Steve Clayton guitar picks, which are produced by a Talent company, have been used by musicians ranging from Johnny Cash to the Foo Fighters. A company spokeswoman says the recent growth of the company is attributable in large part to an online design tool that lets users create a unique look for their picks.Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

One of the country's top guitar pick manufacturers is located unobtrusively in an unmarked building at the end of a road in Talent's industrial park, but expansion plans may make it a bit more noticeable.

Steve Clayton, Inc., a guitar accessory company that has provided guitar picks for musicians ranging from Johnny Cash to the Foo Fighters, plans to enlarge its business and hire new employees. To do that, it will add another 5,200 square feet to its 11,000-square-foot facility. The company has 10 full-time employees.

The expansion will provide extra space to warehouse materials and products. It comes after a recent second-story addition on an existing building that added new offices and a packaging facility. And all the growth comes amid a difficult economy.

"We actually do better during recessions," said Chrystal Clayton, vice president of marketing and sales and daughter of the company owner.

"When people are out of work they have more time and tend to take on a new hobby," she said. Picks cost between 30 and 80 cents each, making them readily affordable and available at any music shop.

The company, which was the first to launch Internet sales of guitar picks about eight years ago, is one of the top two major guitar pick manufacturers in the country. There also are about 20 smaller companies.

"We're still the only ones with an online pick designer," Clayton said.

The online designer allows customers to design their own picks using a template that uploads artwork, photographs and logos. Custom orders range in quantities from as few as 30 picks and up into the millions. Most orders are shipped within 48 hours.

The company provides picks for many rock and country bands, including the Foo Fighters, Tenacious D and Eric Church. In his heyday, Johnny Cash kept a standing order of 10,000 customized guitar picks. The company also holds an exclusive license to imprint Playboy's logo on guitars and guitar accessories. It holds similar licenses with Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures to imprint famous movie insignias on picks.

"We have the rights to their trademarks and imagery," Clayton said.

An avid guitar player since his teens, Steve Clayton first got into the music business when he was 16 by selling chord charts on the road.

He left Southern California in 1983 and moved to Cave Junction where he began the guitar pick business. After a year there, he moved his business to Ashland and 15 years later moved to Talent. In all, Steve has been in the music business for 44 years.

Although the company is named after its founding father, it remains a family operation. Clayton still works in the factory, overseeing the making of new equipment and the testing of new plastics for picks. His wife, Sue, works as the company accountant and daughter Chrystal works in marketing.

Chrystal Clayton graduated from St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif., with a degree in business and an emphasis in marketing. After college she returned home to help the company grow and since 2001, she said, it has done just that, recording a six-fold sales increase.

She said that in addition to the customizable picks, the company's success lies in making a variety of guitar picks from about 15 different types of plastics and available in about eight different gauges or thicknesses. Different plastics produce a different sound on instruments and different thicknesses are preferred for different musical styles.

Vera Westbrook is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at

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