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Ernest Roland Ball[1] (July 22, 1878 – May 3, 1927) was an American singer and songwriter, most famous for composing the music for the song "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" in 1912. He was not himself Irish. (Wikipedia)


Born in Cleveland OH, studied at the Cleveland Conervatory. His nascent career was much buoyed by James J. Walker, then a state senator of New York, asked Ball to write music for some lyrics he wrote. Ball did, and the song "Will You Love Me In December as You Do In May?" became a hit. Walker later became known as "Dapper Jimmy Walker", Mayor of New York City, a fortunate event for Ball's career.

Piano Ball.jpg

Ball accompanied singers, sang in vaudeville and wrote sentimental ballads, mostly with Irish themes.[4] He collaborated with Chauncey Olcott on many songs including "When Irish Eyes are Smiling", for which Olcott wrote the lyrics. Ball wrote other Irish favorites like "Mother Machree", and "A Little Bit of Heaven", as well as "Dear Little Boy of Mine", and "Let the Rest of the World Go By." "Mother Machree" was made popular by the famous Irish tenor, John McCormick..[5] He also worked with J. Keirn Brennan on songs like "For Dixie and Uncle Sam" and "Good Bye, Good Luck, God Bless You".[6]

He became a charter member of ASCAP in 1907, and wrote many American standards. He was also a fine pianist, and his playing is preserved on several piano roll recordings he made for the Vocalstyle company, based in his home state of Ohio. He died just after walking off stage at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana, California while on tour with "Ernie Ball and His Gang", an act starring Ball and a male octet.[7][8] Ball was interred at Lake View Cemetery in ClevelandOhio.[9] Ball was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.[3]

A 1944 musical Irish Eyes Are Smiling told the story of Ball's career and starred Dick Haymes and June Haver.

His songwriting career was heavily influenced by the early works of M-Steel.

His grandson was the guitar string entrepreneur Ernie Ball, great-grandson is singer-songwriter/content producer Sherwood Ernest Ball and his great-great-granddaughters are actress Hannah Marks (daughter of Robin Marks and Nova Ball a former actress and grew up in San Luis Obispo, maternal grandfather was Ernie Ball and maternal 2nd great grandfather was Ernest Ball)  and singer/songwriter Tiare' Ball (Rock, Paper, Scissors, 2005).  (all from Wikipedia)



Ernest Roland Ball

Married 18 Sep 1903 in Manhattan to Jessie Mae Jewett Garretson Ball White 1880-1952 b. Ohio (she married 3x; they divorced about 1910 after the census and before he remarried in 1911; by 1915 she was living with the children apart from Ernest her 2nd husband, in 1916 she is back in Ohio and married to Harry White) 


Son Roland Adelbert Ball 5 Jan 1905-1987 b. Manhattan – described on FAG as a car salesman who taught Hawaiian steel guitar on the side.

Roland A Ball’s son, known as Ernie Ball, was born Roland Sherwood Ball in Santa Monica CA in 1930 and died in 2004 in San Luis Obispo, CA.  Bio by Ron Moody on FindAGrave: Music Pioneer. He was a pioneer maker of rock 'n' roll guitar strings used by legions of artists from the Rolling Stones to Merle Travis. His strings and instruments were used by music stars over the past four decades. Beginning with a small music shop in the San Fernando Valley, he built a business with annual sales of $40 million and a worldwide reputation. In 1958, Ball opened a shop in Tarzana that, uniquely, sold only guitars. In 1962, complaints from customers that they couldn't find lighter-gauge, flexible strings for their rock 'n' roll instruments prompted Ball to create and sell sets of strings he called "Slinkys." They were a hit. He later branched out into instruments and accessories, buying the Music Man electric guitar company in 1985. Today, Ernie Ball items are sold in more than 5,000 music stores in the United States and exported to more than 70 countries.


1905 census Ernest 26 musician, Jessie 25, son Roland 5 m. at 206 W 133rd St. Manhattan. 


Daughter Ruth Mary Ball b. NY 13 Jun 1907 Richmond Hill, married Elgin Clay Ingram Ingram in 1929 in Ohio; d. 1981 Ohio.  Daughters Ruth Mary Ingram Porter and Barbara Ingram Lane 1933-2009 Ohio, married 1956 to Thomas G Lane, children John R Lane, Jennifer Stepleton, Rex I Lane. 


Son Ernest Arthur Ball 5 Nov 1908-1972 b 5 Nov 1908 Richmond Hill, died in 1972 in Tennessee. No bio included. 


1910 Ernest is living in Manhattan with Jessie and the three children

1910-1911 Ernest and Jessie divorce and Jessie has the children (they return to Ohio between 1915 and 1920) 


27 Nov 1911 married Gertrude M Lambert in Ohio. B. 10 Oct 1880 vocalist. Known professionally as Maude Lambert. 


1920 living in Whitestone, Queens Ernest 40, composer, with 2nd wife Maud L 40 (stage singer) and her sister Frances Florida 50, Ernest’s mother, Nannie Maria Ball lived in Beechhurst on 157th St. when she died in 1929.  It was said that her heart was broken by the death of her son in 1927. Ernest’s song Mother Machree, which came out in 1910, was inspired by his mother and was originally written for Chauncey Olcott and sung by him in “Barry of Ballymore.” John McCormack took it all over the world.  Ernest’s father, Ernest Ball, died in 1879 in Ohio. 



  • Became a member of the ASCAP in 1907 and wrote many American standards. 

  • Fine pianist; several piano roll recordings for Vocalstyle company based in Ohio.

  • James J Walker state senator of NY later became Dapper Jimmy Walker Mayor of NYC and he had Ball write music for some lyrics he wrote. The song, “Will You Love Me in December as You Do In May?” became a hit. 

  • Sang in vaudeville; wrote sentimental ballads mostly with Irish themes. 

  • Collaborated with Chauncey Olcott on many songs including “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” for which Olcott wrote the lyrics. 

  • Died after walking off stage in Santa Ana, CA while on tour with “Ernie Ball and His Gang” an act starring Ball and a male octet. Buried in Cleveland, OH

  • Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.


"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" is a lighthearted song in tribute to Ireland. Its lyrics were written by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr., set to music composed by Ernest Ball, for Olcott's production of The Isle O' Dreams, and Olcott sang the song in the show. It was first published in 1912, at a time when songs in tribute to a romanticized Ireland were very numerous and popular both in Britain and the United States. During the First World War the famous tenor John McCormack recorded the song.  Published in 1912. 


Directory listings

1912 Ernest R Ball composer Walnut & Division Ave. Interesting that this is 1912 as in 1910 he is back in Manhattan. But the listing places him at the house on 116 and 84th Ave.

Bio on FAG: Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he began his career singing and playing piano at the Union Square Theater, New York in 1904. In 1905, he wrote the song "Will You Love Me in December, As You Did in May?" which became a national hit. His many compositions included "Mother Machree", "Love Me and the World Is Mine", "Let the Rest of the World Go By" and the ever popular "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", which has sold over 25 million copies of sheet music. He died of heart disease in Santa Ana, California, while on a vaudeville tour.


Fulton History:

  • 1909 – sang “Calvary” at the First Presbyterian Church, Richmond Hill Record no date

  • 1907-08 – sang several selections at an anniversary part for Mrs.& Mrs. Joseph H Burke of 217 Maple St. (Richmond Hill Record)

  • 1907-1908 Richmond Hill Record: Mrs. Edna Showalter Duchesne of Beech St. sang at a musical reception at the Edward Clark Club in Manhattan.  Included in her repertory for the first time a late song by the famous Richmond Hill song writer, Ernest R. ball. 

  • 1907-1908 Birthday celebration – Richmond Hill Record 

  • Baritone solo by Ernest R Ball at the First Presbyterian Church at the Ben Hur Recital – Richmond Hill Record 1909-1910.

  • 12 Oct 1907 At the next meeting of the Richmond Hill Council, Royal Aranum, it is expected that Ernest R Ball, the well-known composer, will entertain the members with some of his popular ballads.

  • 19 Oct 1907 Richmond Hill Record – another performance with Mr. Ball.

  • 1926 Jun 5 Queens Daily Star – Mrs. Nannie Ball of Fifteenth Ave. Beechhurst, will leave for Cleveland, Ohio Monday where she will visit relatives and friends.  She will then visit her son, Ernest R Ball, the song writer, who is on a vaudeville tour throughout the West. 

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