Faces of Kansas City: Guitar collector Ed Ball - KCTV5

Faces of Kansas City: Guitar collector Ed Ball


Several years ago, a local man picked up a vintage guitar and it ended up changing his life.

And while he didn't become a rock star, he evolved into a guitar czar of sorts.

To say guitars are a passion for Ed Ball is a major understatement.

"This is 1953 ... smells like 1953," said Ball of one particular guitar. "It has a very loud acoustic tone."

But Ball isn't infatuated with just any guitar. His passion is for Gretsch guitars.

"Gretsch is kind of the Dr Pepper, with Gibson and Fender being Coke and Pepsi," he said. "It's the distant third that a lot of people don't know about."

Ball is considered one of the world's foremost experts on the Gretsch line of guitars.

But how did a Hallmark employee living in Kansas City become the go-to guy for everything Gretsch? Much of the company's history and record keeping was lost in a fire in the 1970s. Through computer research, Ball began tracking and documenting the serial numbers found on each guitar.

Ball compiled so much information, he wrote a book and several magazine articles.

"These are antiques," Ball said. "These are cool old things. Between this and hot rods, it's about as cool as it gets for collectors."

Just about everything is original on the classics Ball collects, right down to the case they came in.

"Some famous people played these ... Duane Eddy, Eddie Cochran, Brian Setzer," he said. "That's what people want - the guitars their heroes of the '50s and '60s played."

Ball said he considers each instrument a separate work of art, and just like the Gretsch Co., every guitar has soul.

"Guitars back then were $250, $300, $400," he said. "Where in the mid-'50s, that's a lot of money. That's one of the reasons they exist today. People took care of them".

For Ball, it's much more than just a hobby - it's a way of life.

"We really are just custodians," he said. "They last long enough where I'm taking care of them now. Someday, someone else will take care of them."

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