Monday, 28 April 2008 06:27

Semi-retirement……Huh?

Written by  Sterling Ball
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So he has moved the family kicking and screaming to Newport Beach in 1967. I look back on the kickng and screaming part….lets see Newport Beach…Boats, beaches and babes…The San Fernando Valley…

We are settling in and things are going well. My Dad is Salesman/Graphic Artist/Product Designer/Back up shipper /and chief bottle washer. The kids are still showing up after work to stuff labels into strings and I got the pleasure of filing invoices. Back then there were just two other employees, Marie Farley the pick printing lady and a guy who I wont mention his name as he started as a 12 year old student and worked for my dad and handled all the shipping into his adulthood.

My Dad decided to get a local accountant and the first thing the guy wanted to see was the check register and cancelled checks. The unnamed employee became very nervous and was reluctant to turn over the checks and registers. He kept telling my dad that the accountant was just trying to boost his billings and that the employee was handling it fine. My Dad forced the guy to turn over the stuff and the accountant calls my Dad and says, “Someone has forged a bunch of checks and the total is about $27,500.” My Dad confronted the guy and he broke down into tears and admitted that at first he was just advancing himself money but it got out of hand. My father prosecuted and also went after Bank of America because the forgeries were so bad. That happened in 1969.

The other thing he did was another example that he taught me about trying to make a good result out of a bad experience. He sat back and said “If someone can steal $27,500.00 and I dont notice it, then there is some real potential here.” It was a wake up call to run his business properly and pay a little more attention and see where it could go. Off it went and those were exciting times. When you are very small incremental growth was exciting. We added a sales guy and a Sales Manager.

I had decided that I needed work experience outside of my Dad. I went to work at a little guitar store called Island Guitars on Balboa Island. Wow, what a crash course in entrepenourship……My boss was a character who fought with his wife in the store, lie to the creditors, flirt with the customers and play in the restaurant down the block at night. My favorite was when a housewife would try to grind on him for a discount…he would start by scratching his head really hard and putting his shoulders back with his pot belly sticking out…if they kept grinding he would go his failsafe closing move…..He would scratch his ‘privates’. THe housewife would just say I’ll take it and rush out of the store. I was managing the store at 16 and having a blast. I would restring guitars when time alloted and do all the little things we did in the Tarzana days. I was playing in bands, managing the little store and buying and selling stuff on the side as none of the Ball kids got allowances in rich Newport. I didnt care because I liked buying a Danelectro for 15 dollars and selling it for 30.

In my travels scouring things to buy and sell I used to drop into this quirky hippy amp company called Quilter Sound Company. It was run by a genius named Pat Quilter and his right hand man Barry Andrews. I got Crump’s son to run the woodshop and I sort of ran the retail part. There was basically no retail but what a blast. I remember that one day they were about 6 weeks behind in paying me and Barry was sick of my act and I was sick of his and I quit probably before Barry could fire me. I got a amp head and two cabinets for back pay. Barry went on to hire his brother who had just graduated from business school and they had this crazy idea to just make power amps. It was wildly sucessful and they are now known as QSC. They are all really nice and good people who deserve their success.

It’s now early 73 and I decide that I will try to get a job with Ernie Ball. I dont ask my Dad, I go to the sales manager and tell him that I wanted to be a road rep for Southern California. He didnt want me in anyway shape or form. I said “Give me a month, a gas card and that old Chevy out in the parkng lot that was unused, pay me only on what I sell and if it isnt worth it, then fire me.” “Oh, yeah and lets keep this between us”

I sold a lot of strings and stuff that month. So much that I had a job. My Father didn’t find out until about 6 weeks into it he wanted to know where the Chevy was. I was rolling….calling on the sole Guitar Center in a Santa Suit at Christmas and hitting record stores in between my appointments. Great times and then the first gas crisis hit and we couldnt get any gas. I was asked to temporarily come inside and work the telemarketing. I never went back out.

Its now 75 and my Godfather and other mentor Tommy Walker had started Music Man with Leo Fender and Forrest White. Leo Fender had sold his company in 1965 to CBS because he thought he was gravely ill. CBS bought a very happening and profitable company and couldnt believe it when the real corp guys got in there. There were no MBA’a and the guy who ran the production was Forrest with no degree and they forced him out with a manufacturing expert that came from Waste King garbage disposals. They looked at the sales staff and all of them made more than the president of the United States. They forced them out one by one. Music Man was a collection of talented and skilled castoffs or people who just couldnt take CBS.

I got invited to the lab to see what they were up to. They handed my this bass log that had this big pickup and three knobs. We plugged it in and I couldnt believe it. It was like watching High Definition television for the first time. I made some suggestions that I didnt know any better than to realize that I was offering advice to Leo Fender. Leo liked it and I signed on as a beta tester and lab rat after work at Ernie Ball on the phones………

Part whatever coming again soon!

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 July 2009 09:21