A tribute to Ernie Ball
September 12, 2004
Sterling Ball, who is the Godfather of my son, called me to tell me that his Dad, Ernie died. Nothing that anybody can say could make a difference, could it? Not to his family or close friends, but I would like to just mention a few things I remember about Ernie.
First of all, when I met them, there were 3 of his sons working in the factory in California. They all called him "Ern", which I thought was pretty cool. They all felt so comfortable with him. Ern was the detail oriented, perfectionist. But still, he played guitar very well, and also did creative, graphics design for the company. Over the course of the 2 decades that I knew him, Ern gradually gave more and more responsibility to Sterling, who knew every nook and cranny of their business, and had an uncanny sense of people and business management.
One of my fondest memories is the time that Ern and Sterling decided to try some guitar clinics on the West Coast that Ern would witness. We had already done some and they turned out great. So, Ern arranged for me to meet the insurance requirements in order to be an authorized pilot for his airplane.
The three of us took off for San Francisco first. We went to the music store and discovered there was some kind of misunderstanding, since they really weren't ready for us. They said, "I guess you can set up over there after you move some of the stuff out of the way". With a hastily made sign taped on the door, we began our incredibly humble clinic with a very intimate audience. Before we had a chance to explain to Ern that it really has been a lot better than this, he offered some words of praise.
Luckily, the next one in Seattle was fantastic, like we had envisioned. Ern was impressed, and felt so confident in both Sterling and I that he said, "why don't you guys take the plane to Montana and the other cities, while I fly commercially back to the factory?" I felt like the first time my Dad let me out on my own with his car. Ernie, Sterling, and I had a great time flying together, since Ern was a very analytical, observant pilot. Guess what, that suited me just fine, and we found many points to relate on.
One time I flew commercially in to LAX, and he and Sterling flew at night in the plane down to Hawthorne to pick me up. It was super convenient and quite an honor to have that kind of attention from the legend that he was.
I worked with he and Sterling for decades without any kind of contract in force, just a handshake and a never ending respect for both of them. They never once failed to deliver on any promise, and I vowed to do the same. We did, and continue to do seminars, trade shows, gigs with Albert Lee "Biff Baby's All Stars", make signature guitars, and occasionally work on fund raisers.
Every time someone close to me dies, I can't stop myself from telling everybody to let your friends and family know that you appreciate them.
© stevemorse.com 2004