Ernie Ball, a household name among guitar players, died Thursday (Sept. 9) at his home in San Luis Obispo, Calif., following a lengthy illness. He was 74. In the early '60s, rock and country guitarists often resorted to using banjo strings that allowed them to easily bend notes on the instrument's fretboard. After musicians visiting his California guitar shop complained of being unable to find lighter strings, Ball revolutionized the industry by introducing a series of light gauge string sets and individually-gauged strings that allowed players to create custom combinations. Today, the Ernie Ball company generates annual revenues of $40 million from sales worldwide. The Ernie Ball string brand is endorsed by Eric Clapton, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Merle Haggard and many others.