Guitar String Maker Ernie Ball Dies at 74
(AP, 09/10/2004 2:33 AM)
Ernie Ball, a pioneer maker of rock 'n' roll guitar strings used by legions of artists from the Rolling Stones
to Merle Travis, has died. He was 74.
Ball died at his home Thursday after an ongoing illness, the mortuary handling services announced.
His strings and instruments were used by music stars over the past four decades, from B.B. King to Metallica . Beginning with a small music shop in the San Fernando Valley, Ball built a business with annual sales of $40 million and a worldwide reputation. Along the way, he bucked traditional thinking in the music business.
"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," his son, Sterling Ball, said in a statement.
In 1958, Ball opened a shop in Tarzana that, uniquely, sold only guitars.
"Sales reps would come in and say, 'Ern, you've got to sell clarinet reeds, drum sticks, valve oil, blah blah blah,'" Ball once recalled. "And I'd tell them 'I just want to sell guitars.'"
In 1962, complaints from customers that they couldn't find lighter-gauge, flexible strings for their rock 'n' roll instruments prompted Ball to create and sell sets of strings he called "Slinkys."
They were a hit. He later branched out into instruments and accessories, buying the Music Man electric guitar
company in 1985.
Today, Ernie Ball items are sold in more than 5,000 music stores in the United States and exported to more than 70 countries.