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Ernie Ball Passes Away


September 11, 2004

A legend in the musical instrument industry and founder of the Ernie Ball Company in 1962, Ernie Ball passed away on Thursday, September 9 after a lengthy illness. A resident of San Luis Obispo, CA, he was 74 years old. 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.

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.”

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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 offered 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.

For more information, visit their web site at

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