From its humble 1960s beginnings with Slinky strings to its paradigm-changing StingRay bass to its current stance as a respected manufacturer of
guitars and basses that walk the fine line between tradition and innovation,
Ernie Ball Music Man is a true American success story.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOE COFFEY
What comes to mind when you hear the names “Ernie Ball” and “Ernie Ball Music Man”? I asked
a bunch of guitar players and here’s what I got: Slinkys,
StingRays, four-and-two headstocks, Battle of the Band
competitions, and “solid accessories.” They kept going:
Silhouettes, Reflexes, “really well-made necks,” Steve
Lukather, Albert Lee, John Petrucci, Steve Morse, and
Eddie Van Halen. Putting the same question to people
in the industry yielded many of the same answers, along
with a few items that the greater public is becoming
increasingly aware of: crazy costumes, the Ernie Ball
Music Man family itself, and an attitude that is some-
times referred to as “maverick.” Looking back on where
the company came from, it’s easy to see how these ele-
ments fit into the larger picture.
Freshly painted guitar and bass bodies dry in a temperature-controlled room. Some models receive up to 27 layers of base, color, and clear coats, which
are then buffed by automation and by hand.