Frankie Ballard Keeps Grandmother’s Memory Alive
When you listen to Frankie Ballard shredding away on electric guitar, it's hard to believe that he didn't start playing the instrument at birth. "My guitar journeys didn't start until a little later in life," Frankie tells The Boot, explaining that he was 18 before he learned. "Once I did start playing guitar, I became incredibly passionate about it and hungry for more. I had to play eight hours a day. I made up for a lot of lost time by playing so much."
The further he got into his love for playing, Frankie began to realize that something was missing from his instrument. "All my favorite guitar players have named their go-to guitar," says Frankie, who turned 28 on Thursday, December 16. "Mine didn't have a name yet."
Frankie's guitar still didn't have a name after winning Kenny Chesney's 'Next Big Star' competition in 2008, but he had more important things on his mind. "When we won that competition, we got to open for Kenny. I wanted to take my grandma to that show. It was this big arena show and she was my biggest fan, ever. She loved everything that I ever did. I thought it would be cool for her to see me on this big stage, but she couldn't because she had fallen and broke her hip. She was in the hospital getting surgery and eventually passed away from the fall because she was so old."
Even though she was unable to see her precious grandson open for the superstar and go on to play large arenas in the recent years, she was able to see him on a regular basis. "She did get to see me live early on, but she wasn't alive when I got the record deal and she missed all the bigger things," he recalls. "I had always hoped she would have been able to see me on a big stage. It almost happened."
While rehearsing in a guitar shop in Michigan, the state where Frankie was born and raised, he was still mourning the loss of his grandmother. "After we were done rehearsing, my guitar was laying there on the bench while I was fixing something," Frankie recalls. "There was a soldering iron sitting on the work bench and it was hot. I decided that it was only proper to name my guitar after my grandmother. I took the soldering iron and wood burned 'Arlene' into the top of the guitar. It's right on the top edge that faces me. So I get to look down and see her name now. It was the appropriate thing to do. "