BFR Feb 2020
View RSS Feed

Big Poppa

The early days of Music Man

Rating: 11 votes, 4.55 average.
We are reintroducing Music Man amps with my good friend Marco of Mark Bass and I was asked to write a short paragraph....hahahaha

Sitting down to write this re-introduction of Music Man Amps brings back memories….all good.

Music Man was a company that was formed by Leo Fender, Tommy Walker, and Forrest White. You all know Mr. Fender…but behind the scenes there was a very talented
group of men and women that helped make the old Fender Musical Instrument company what it was…they were key people that were instrumental in creating the legendary “pre-CBS” era. For various corporate reasons they didn’t fit into the post CBS buyout of Fender ….But they weren’t done creating and needed an outlet and that outlet was Music Man.

Many people think that Mr. Fender designed the Music Man amps, but it was actually my Godfather Tommy Walker. Tommy was one of the first reps for Fender but was a self taught electronics genius. He also designed the preamp in the Stingray bass. When they started getting to the R and D phase Tommy brought in his god kids. My older brother and I would visit Leo’s lab and play the stuff and then take it out to jam and bandstand it and report back. I ended up getting more involved and worked closely with Leo on the prototyping of the Stingray and the Sabre. One of the reasons why he liked me is that I would tell him what I felt. I had grown up around Leo and Tommy and wasn’t afraid or intimidated to tell them if something wasn’t right….a lot of better players than me would not be so open around Mr. Fender. Since Leo was a huge country music fan that was the core group of beta testers he used….We were the rock guys.

When the amps and instruments were ready I brought some great artists at the time to become endorsees…from Albert Lee to Eric Clapton and many more. The Eric Clapton set up was really great….461 Ocean Blvd had just been released and I told Tommy that I had a chance for Eric Clapton. He didn’t know who he was but trusted me. I met him at the Long Beach Arena and helped him unload a head and two 4x12 cabinets out of his 1968 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. We set up and the Roadie liked the sound…now it was time for Mr Clapton. He approved and that helped give Music Man instant credibility. Please understand that Eric Clapton no longer endorses Music Man but we are all forever indebted to him for his early support.

The Amps were a big hit. The Stingray Bass was an even bigger hit. The guitar was a failure. It was way too bright and nobody liked the rotary switch. Leo and Tommy and the rest had a finger pointing falling out and Music Man was going to be sold to the highest bidder at auction. I went to my Dad and told him that I thought that Ernie Ball should buy it and concentrate on making forward thinking ergonomic guitars and basses and make them in San Luis Obispo, California. This was 1984. I tried to make the numbers work to set up an amp factory but just didn’t have enough money to do both instruments and amps. Tommy designed the amps and cabinets so well that there was not enough profit to justify the continued production. So basically I killed the Music Man amp.

I have approached and been approached about re-introducing the Music Man Amps so many times I have lost count. It was just never the right fit and nobody that I talked to could do the amps justice. When my dear friend Marco of Mark Bass sent me an early morning email asking if I was interested I said “Let’s do it!” I had zero hesitation. I had found my perfect partner to make these great amps come back to the market.

Why Mark Bass? Because I believe that our industry has been blessed with very few passionate geniuses and Marco is one of them. His drive and commitment to creating the very best audio products is so very impressive. I use and love Mark Bass…they are light as a feather, powerful, and nothing sounds as good as them. I am so excited to see Marco and his team faithfully recreate the amps that a previous genius Tommy Walker helped create. Tommy is resting in peace but I’m sure he would be smiling if he were here today. Tommy Walker was one of the most important role models, mentor and friend that I have had and these amps are my tribute to Tommy.

I wanted to cover the early days of the set up of the team and factory for Ernie Ball making Music Man instruments. The original team was Dan Norton who had worked as my fathers right hand man and later mine for 40 years. Tommy Walker came on board and we needed a guitar maker/luthier/designer.

That person was Dudley Gimpel. Dudley had worked at a crazy good and just plain crazy store in Minneapolis, Minnesota called Knut Koupee. He made a Telecaster for me and I loved it and showed it to my father and he made one for Ernie too. Very shortly thereafter Dudley moved to LA to work for Valley Arts guitars who at the time were making all the hip studio guitarists axes. Dudley wasn't happy there and heard that I had bought Music Man. He called and asked if I was interested in hiring him. Valley Arts was a customer of mine and I couldn't hire away customers employees...I told Dudley "As long as you work at Valley Arts, I can't hire you." He called again and asked again...I repeated the I couldn't hire him as long as he worked for a customer. He called a third time and said "I quit Valley Arts" I said you are hired.

This started a design partnership that has covered all of our guitars and basses for the first 25 years. Dudley "Genius" Gimpel and me. WE have since brought in and mentored new designers but all of the stuff still passes through both Dudley and my filters.

Dan, Dudley, and I had two agendas. One was to figure out how to make the Sting Ray bass now that we had bought the company and the second was to design a new guitar since that is where the real market is and the as I mentioned earlier the Leo designed one had missed the mark.

I'll never forget sitting in a basically empty little wood shop at 225 Tank Farm Road in San Luis Obispo and talking about what we liked in existing guitars and what we thought was missing. That guitar was the Silhouette.

We introduced that guitar at the worst NAMM show ever...New Orleans summer 1985. It was a NAMM experiment gone bad. The few dealers who showed up were so hung over from partying on Bourbon Street came to the show late and didn't buy anything. The few that showed up made sure they came buy and laughed at Dudley and I for this little guitar with the funny headstock. It flopped.

But I sent one to Keith Richards. It's a long story....but out of the blue I get a phone call at home mid 1986. "Hello, Sterling? This is Keef." I said "who" He said "Keef Richards" "I got your guitar, its like a fine woman..lets go"

The next thing I knew we got a telex (before fax and email) for an order for 10,000 guitars from Japan. That was the good news. The bad news is that we were making about 4 guitars and basses a day. But we were off and running on a now thirty year journey.

Dan is not well now....Tommy is is my Dad. Dudley and I are sort of the last men standing from what I look back on was a very special era. Thanks go to Dudley for the great partnership and new thanks to Marco for getting me to write this and starting a new chapter in Music Man.

Submit "The early days of Music Man" to Twitter Submit "The early days of Music Man" to FaceBook Submit "The early days of Music Man" to Digg Submit "The early days of Music Man" to MySpace Submit "The early days of Music Man" to Google Submit "The early days of Music Man" to My Yahoo! Submit "The early days of Music Man" to StumbleUpon Submit "The early days of Music Man" to



Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12
  1. nidivivi's Avatar
    Hi Mr Ball, thanks for your great sharing! I am very glad and pleasure to get your message here, although the information posted in 2014, but really very useful and informative, thanks much! i am a girl from kikcsvovo, I love your products.
  2. nidivivi's Avatar
    Hi Mr Ball, thanks for your great sharing! I am very glad and pleasure to get your message here, although the information posted in 2014, but really very useful and informative, thanks much! i am a girl from kikcsvovo, I love your products.

    Quote Originally Posted by mfallmann
    Again a very nice read, Mr. Ball.
    Thank you for sharing your insight of the history and development of your company and products.
    It is both fascinating and inspiring to see how someone who REALLY loves his work succeeds in putting out excellent products that outshine themarket.
    This is the reason why I love your instruments!
    Best regards,
    Matthias Fallmann

    PS: Looking forward to the new EBMM amps.
  3. Gilfir's Avatar
  4. Redyss's Avatar
    amazing !
  5. Promeks's Avatar
  6. Lembian's Avatar
    great article!
  7. Salomen's Avatar
    amazing article!
  8. lucasmiguel's Avatar
    I love to see subjects related to what I love most in life the music, thanks to the blog for the posts and also for leaving this space so that we leave our comment
    gospel musicas
  9. Hongthai's Avatar
    Again read very well, Mr. Ball.
    Thank you for sharing the detailed history and development of your company and products.
    It is both fascinating and inspirational to see how a person really loves his work succeeding in making great products that outshine themarket.
    This is why I love your instrument!
    Best regards, Matthias Fallmann
  10. LeahRedox's Avatar
    Thank you for sharing, I'd like to share something useful as well. If you need any assignment or java task help, feel free to check out Java homework help of any complexity within your deadline. Pleasure to work with them and improve my grades as always. Have a good day!
  11. dorcassmith's Avatar
    Online project management writing services have become very popular among custom management writing service students seeking Management Coursework Writing Services and management essay writing services.
    [url=]Management Coursework Writing Services & Marketing Essay Services[/url]
  12. DigitalCreaters's Avatar
    Thanks for sharing such information article with us. Digital Creaters - Digital Marketing Company | SEO Services | Home
  13. groshanhansen's Avatar
    Mcafee Account Login

    We are working as public beneficiaries as we share analyzed and evaluated solutions with people who are looking for a good solution on McAfee login. If you are also looking for such assistance. You can either go to our website or contact us via call.
    visit here: Mcafee Login, Mcafee Account Login - Total Protection Login
  14. petsno1shop's Avatar
    that was to informative for me
    please visit below link to get information about animals\
    Website Link: Pet Store, Pet Supplies, Pet Food, and Pet Products | Pet #1 Shop
  15. abhishek1402's Avatar
    Impressive stuff. Keep going. All the best to you and your team.
    My best regards,
    Digital Marketing Agency Delhi
Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12
Ernie Ball Forums