It is hard to imagine the acoustic bass guitar is only around 50 years old. This instrument has its roots in Mexico.
Mariachi bands still use the guitarron. This is a large bodied version of the guitar.
The back of a guitarron or chitarrone is slightly angled, the neck is very short and the sides are quite deep compared to a guitar.
In the early 1960 an inventive fellow by the name of Ernie Ball owned a music store in Tarzana, California.
Ball had already distinguished himself as an excellent steel guitar player. Here was a guy that lived and breathed guitars. When approached by sales representatives of companies that manufactured drums, he would tell them he was not interested in their merchandise. His store only sold guitars and guitar related products.
By today’s standards these strings would be considered Extra-Heavy and always contained a 29 gauge third/ G string.
Ball asked Fender to produce a set of guitar strings that were lighter and featured a plain G string. They refused.
Gibson also rebuffed Mr. Ball’s request.
So Ernie went to a string manufacturer and asked them to package strings with a 24 gauge third string, which they did.
Ball also bought and sold single strings so that musicians could experiment with their individual preferences.
That is when the company concentrated it’s efforts on manufacturing, producing, packaging and selling guitar and bass guitar strings and their new line of Music Man guitars.
Here is a short history of how the Ernie Ball Company acquired Music Man. In 1971 Leo Fender, Forrest White and Tom Walker started a company called Music Man. The story of Music Man is something I'll save for a later date. However, due to declining sales and the declining health of the partners, Music Man was sold to the Ernie Ball Company in 1984 and Ball went into business making electric guitars and related products.
Even Martin still produces and acoustic bass; as do many other guitar manufacturers.
And though there are currently many alternatives, the Earthwood acoustic bass is highly prized by collectors and bass players alike. It is an excellent sounding and very playable instrument. The same cannot be said for many of the cheaper modern acoustic bass guitars. Most modern instruments need a piezo electric pickup to be heard.