Music Industry News Network [09-13-2004]

Founder Of The Ernie Ball Company, Ernie Ball, Passes Away On September 9

Ernie Ball, a legend in the musical instrument industry and founder of the Ernie Ball Company in 1962, passed away on Thursday, September 9 after a lengthy illness. A resident of San Luis Obispo, CA, he was 74 years old. One of the last great colorful entrepreneurs, he created products that helped shape the sound of rock-n-roll - endless hit songs have been played on Ernie Ball Strings since the 1960's.

A graveside service will be held Monday, September 13 at 10 a.m. at the San Luis Cemetery, 2890 S. Higuera in San Luis Obispo. Wheeler-Smith Mortuary is handling the arrangements.

"An artist and a business man in one, Ernie single-handedly revolutionized the music industry with the creation of Slinky Strings, so much so that everyone from the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix to current artists like Blink 182 have Ernie Ball strings in common," said Sterling Ball, president of the Ernie Ball Company and one of Ernie's sons. "Super Slinkys are one of the top products in the music business, and it all started in a small store in Tarzana because my dad understood what players needed.

"He changed the way people thought of guitar accessories, and how they sold and marketed them, and to this day the Ernie Ball way is the industry standard. My dad understood how to make tools for musicians, and our family is deeply proud of being part of this creative process. We will all miss him immensely, and are grateful for the legacy he created for us."

He is survived by his loving wife Ani; sons Sherwood, Sterling, David; daughter Nova and eight grandchildren.

Ernie grew up in Santa Monica, California. At 19, he successfully auditioned for the pedal guitar slot in the Tommy Duncan band, (former lead singer for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys) and toured with the band for a year prior to a three-year stint as an Air Force bandsman.

After leaving the service, Ernie returned to Los Angeles, where he played professionally and taught guitar. He also played on the staff band for KTLA TV's popular weekly show, "Western Varieties."

In 1958, Ernie opened a small guitar shop in Tarzana, a few miles from Hollywood, which was the first store in the country to sell only guitars. In the early 1960's Ernie developed the first ever rock & roll strings, called "Slinkys," and further revolutionized the market by offering guitarists custom-gauge single strings.

The demand for Ernie Ball's Slinky strings continued to grow and in 1967 he sold the retail store and moved the string business to Newport Beach. During the 1970's, along with his son Sterling, Ernie set up distributors in Europe, Japan and Australia.

Ernie Ball purchased Music Man (electric guitar company) in the fall of 1984. He designed and built a new facility in San Luis Obispo, California, and all Ernie Ball and Music Man operations were moved to the new plant in 1985. In 2003, the Ernie Ball Company moved its string operations to Indio, California, and continues to operate Music Man manufacturing from its San Luis Obispo plant. Always a player, even to the end, Ernie continued to play an integral role in the company he founded 42 years ago. Numerous family members also work for the company in various capacities.


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