‘Cry Baby Is It !’

Written by: James Krueger On: Feb 13th, 2019

This months blog is a bit sad…. to date we have tried to showcase different companies or subjects that are important to the average guitar player and or guitar builder, but this time,

I’d like to take a few words and recognize the loss of probably the icon of guitar accessories, Jim Dunlop.  Jim passed away this year after spending his entire career of over 50 years, designing, manufacturing, re-designing and developing accessories for the guitar player.  Most people do not realize that Jim Dunlop is not just the name of a company, but a real person.

Back in the 60’s, Jim came to Benicia California via Canada and his homeland, Scotland.

He worked as a machinist in order to support his family, but was designing and manufacturing products for guitarists at home in his spare time.  He developed the VU-Tuner which was placed on the guitar and had a reed that vibrated sympathetically with the low-E string.  The tuner was not well received but a potential buyer suggested the need for a good 12-string guitar capo.  Jim immediately designed and manufactured one; quickly applying for the patent.  That item did sell and Jim moved on to reproducing the old National metal thumb-pick which was suggested to him by Jon Lundberg from the Berklee guitar building community. This started a chain reaction of events that saw Dunlop start producing finger-picks and soon after flat picks.  Starting with celluloid, he moved to nylon and then developed his own material he called Tortex.  From this point on, Dunlop never looked back.

Much later in the 80’s, Dunlop had become the name in acoustic accessories, but Jim wasn’t satisfied….he wanted to diversify even more, so when the iconic ‘Cry Baby’ brand of wah-wah pedals became available, he bought it and re-introduced the Cry Baby Wah to the marketplace.  Of course the guy who made the wah-wah famous was Jimi Hendrix so Dunlop inked a deal with Al Hendrix (Jimi’s dad)  and re-created the Hendrix wah (of course while paying the family for each one sold).  That led Dunlop to the Fuzz Face, the Uni-Vibe and the Octavio as well.  It wasn’t long after that MXR became available and Dunlop acquired that as well, which connected him to the another guitar superstar, Eddie Van Halen.  The Dyna-comp and the Phase 90 were essential pedals for MXR.

Today; only a short 54 years after Jim Dunlop started his business, there isn’t a music store anywhere, where you can’t take 2 steps without seeing a Dunlop product….not something very many people in the business can say outside of the giant guitar and amp names like Fender, Gibson and Marshall (of which Fender is the only one not named after the owner).  According to Jimmy Dunlop (Jim’s son), the next 50 years will see Dunlop expand on their lines of picks, capos, slides and effects….they already have started on a string line, so who knows where this legacy will go.  My hat is off to Jim Dunlop, may he rest in well earned peace, and hopefully smile as his company moves on to bigger and newer adventures!  Oh, in case you are wondering about the title this month, after Dunlop acquired the wah pedal, people would ask how important to musical expression it was, and Dunlop would exclaim ‘Cry Baby Is It!’

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