Ernie Ball dies (slight Who)
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 27 06:11:55 CDT 2004
>From the Guardian at:
Monday September 27, 2004
The man who developed the intrinsic sound of
rock'n'roll was not a composer or a famous musician
but Ernie Ball, who has died aged 74. He pioneered
lighter gauge guitar strings to assist the riffs and
wailing vibratos that became the music's
characteristic sound. His strings, marketed as
Slinkys, were used by, among others, Jimi Hendrix, the
Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, BB
King, U2 and Spinal Tap.
Although they remain the most popular guitar strings
in the business today, their introduction was not an
easy matter. In the early 1960s, Ball, a musician
himself, realised that the heavy gauged strings then
available were so tough that players got blisters
trying to manipulate them. When his request for
lighter strings was rebuffed - because the electric
instrument's legendary pioneer, Leo Fender, would not
change his design - Ball decided to create a new
string type himself.
In 1962, after working out the best kind of metal and
gauge range, he began production with a few employees
at his guitar shop in the Los Angeles suburb of
Tarzana. He sold mainly by mail order, but word of the
strings' superiority quickly spread. At the time of
his death, he had two factories, employed 350 workers,
sold his guitars and strings in 5,500 US music shops
and exported to 75 countries. Sales topped $44m a
Ball was raised in Santa Monica, California, the son
of a salesman who also played the guitar, and the
grandson of Ernest R Ball, a popular songwriter. He
himself became interested in the instrument as a
teenager, practised for hours every day, joined the
Musicians' Union and played in the evenings at a bar.
He also learned to play the pedal guitar, which has
horizontal frets and stands on legs, joined a band and
toured for a year. At the time of the Korean war, he
enlisted in the US air force band for three years.
In 1958, Ball opened what is believed to have been the
first music shop in America to sell only guitars. He
sold it in 1967, before opening the strings factory.
In 1972 he launched the Earthwood guitar and, in 1985,
bought the Music Man electric guitar company and
launched more brands. He is survived by his wife Ani,
three sons and a daughter.
· Roland Sherwood 'Ernie' Ball, musician and
entrepreneur, born August 30 1930; died September 9
-Brian in Atlanta
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