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Ernie Ball (born Roland Sherwood Ball; August 30, 1930 – September 9, 2004) was an American entrepreneur, musician, and innovator, widely acclaimed as a revolutionary in the development of guitar-related products. He began as a club and local television musician and small business entrepreneur, building an international business in guitars and accessories that would eventually gross $40 million a year.
With the guitar-based rock revival of the 1960s, Ball noticed that beginning students were having difficulty playing the bestselling Fender #100 medium gauge strings, particularly in holding down or bending the stiff 29-gauge third ("G") string. At the time, it was common for a set of strings to have a "wound" third string. He approached the Fender company with the problem, suggesting a lighter gauge but was rebuffed. Ball convinced a string manufacturer to make him custom sets with a 24-gauge third string which he sold in his store. It was the beginning of the Ernie Ball brand. Located not far from Hollywood, the store began to attract a large patronage of professional musicians, including The Beach Boys, Merle Travis, and The Ventures. Ball also began to notice the practice of "slack stringing" among players who discarded the bottom sixth string and added a banjo first string on top. This resulted in an overall lighter gauge set with a plain third string. Again, he contacted Fender with a suggestion for a lighter set and was turned down. He then approached Gibson, who also turned him down. So, once again he ordered from the manufacturer naming the product the Ernie Ball Slinky. "Slinky" strings traveled the country with the pro musicians who used them and before long, Ball was receiving mail orders from individuals and stores. Still not a string company, he ordered separate strings in various sizes and displayed them in a makeshift case allowing musicians to experiment in creating their own sets. It took off, and in 1967 he sold the store and moved his string business to Newport Beach, California.
Today Ernie Ball Slinkys are used by many world famous guitar players. A very small sampling of these guitarists includes: Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Dave Murray, Paul Gilbert, Slash, Buckethead, Billie Joe Armstrong, Juan Alderete, DJ Ashba, Jeff Beck, The Edge, John Fogerty, Synyster Gates, Janick Gers, Steve Vai, Tommy Kessler, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Albert Lee, John Mayer, Dave Navarro, Scott George Huckabay, Brad Paisley, John Petrucci, Omar Rodríguez-López, Mick Thomson, Chris Broderick, Daron Malakian, Curt Kirkwood, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Tom DeLonge.