Cry Baby: What Is This Iconic Guitar Effect And How Was It Invented?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

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The Dunlop Cry Baby is a popular wah-wah pedal, manufactured by Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc. The name Cry Baby was from the original pedal from which it was copied, the Thomas Organ/Vox Cry Baby wah-wah.

Thomas Organ/Vox failed to register the name as a trademark, leaving it open for Dunlop. More recently, Dunlop manufactured the Vox pedals under licence, although this is no longer the case.

The said wah-wah effect was originally intended to imitate the supposed crying tone that a muted trumpet produced, but became an expressive tool in its own way.

It is used when a guitarist is soloing, or to create a “wacka-wacka” funk styled rhythm.

What is the crybaby pedal


The Cry Baby wah-wah pedal has become one of the most iconic guitar effects of the 20th century, having been used by countless musicians across genres since its invention in the 1960s. It’s a pedal that produces a dynamic sound that has been used in countless recordings, from some of the most famous guitar solos in rock to funk, jazz and beyond. But where did it come from and how was it invented? Let’s take a closer look.

History of the Cry Baby

The Cry Baby is an iconic guitar effect produced by a Wah-Wah pedal, which produces a distinctive “wah” sound when it is moved up and down. The name “Cry Baby” was derived from its characteristic sound, which was originally produced by electric guitars in the 1960s.

The concept of Wah-Wah pedals can be traced back to the late 1940s, when Alvino Rey developed a device called the “talking steel guitar.” His device used a foot pedal to manipulate and distort the sound of a steel guitar by altering its volume and tone. He later developed a portable version of this effect in 1954, which was known as the Vari-Tone — also known as “the Voice Box.”

It wasn’t until 1966 that Vox company released their first commercial wah-wah pedal — which they named the Clyde McCoy after jazz trombonist Clyde McCoy. In 1967, Thomas Organ released the first Cry Baby pedal under their own brand — an improved version of Vox’s original Clyde McCoy design. Since then, various different models have become available from different brands, but these early designs remain some of the most popular today.

What is a Cry Baby?

A Cry Baby is a type of guitar effect pedal that changes the audio signal to create a vibrato or a “wah-wah” sound. This iconic sound has been used by some of history’s biggest guitarists, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and most recently, John Mayer.

The Cry Baby was invented in 1966 when musician Brad Plunkett combined two effects – a Sforzando circuit and an envelope filter – in one unit. His device was intended to mimic the human voice by increasing and decreasing the amount of treble in the guitar’s signal as it moved up and down in pitch. It didn’t take long for the music industry to embrace this new invention, and it quickly became an essential piece of equipment for many studios. As time went on, manufacturers began to tweak Plunkett’s design resulting in hundreds of variations that are still being used today.

The unique sound achieved with a Cry Baby has become an integral part of popular music over the past fifty years, from funk to blues, alternative rock to heavy metal. Today there are many different models available for everyone from amateurs to professionals looking for that signature wah-wah sound.

How It Works

The Cry Baby effect is a distinctive sound generated by a guitar wah-wah pedal. This effect was made famous by Jimi Hendrix and has been used by many other guitarists since. The wah-wah pedal works by using a band-pass filter to shape the tone of the guitar and give it a characteristic “wah-wah” sound. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

The Basics of the Cry Baby

The Cry Baby is a popular guitar effects pedal which has been around since the 1960s. It was first invented by engineers at Thomas Organ in 1965 and has become the most popular guitar effect to date.

The Cry Baby works by creating a small oscillation in the current running through an aluminum foil-covered disk. This creates an effect that emphasizes particular audio frequencies, resulting in what is known as “fuzz” sound. If a guitarist changes the position of their foot on the pedal they can effectively adjust the sensitivity of this “fuzz” sound.

More recent versions of the Cry Baby are equipped with controls that let users adjust the tone and intensity of their sound, enabling them to truly customize their tone and perfect their craft. They can also add other effects such as reverb, overdrive and distortion to further shape their desired sounds.

This iconic guitar effect works beautifully when combined with more traditional amplifiers or used with high-gain amplifiers for an even greater range of tones. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

The Different Types of Cry Baby

The Dunlop Cry Baby is an effects pedal that was designed to recreate the sound of the wah-wah effect popularized in classic rock and funk tracks of the 1960s and 1970s. The wah pedal boosts certain frequencies while cutting others, resulting in a fluctuating sound resembling a speaking voice.

The Dunlop Cry Baby is available in many different varieties, each offering subtly different sounds and features. One of the most recognizable models is the classic GCB-95 Wah (the original Cry Baby Wah). This flagship model features two sliders for adjusting intensity and frequency range, as well as a “Range” switch for boosting bass or treble signals.

For players looking to experiment with different styles and tones, more modern variants such as the GCB-130 Super Cry Baby offer additional functionality such as built-in selectable “Mutron-style filters” for producing dampened percussive effects or adding extra harmonics toyour signal chain. Similarly, there’s also the GCB-150 Low Profile Wah, which blends traditional “Vintage” sounds with modern tools like adjustable EQ and an internal effects loop for adding other stomp boxes into your mix. Finally, there’s a range of mini variants featuring simplified noiseless circuitry on board mini pedals perfect for saving space on crowded boards!

The Invention of the Cry Baby

The Cry Baby is an iconic guitar effect that has been used by some of the most renowned musicians of all time. It was first created in the late 1960s by an inventor named Thomas Organ, who set out to make a guitar effect that would replicate the sound of a person crying. The Cry Baby was the first successful design of the guitar effect, and it has since become an essential tool in the world of music. But how was it invented and what makes it so unique? Let’s find out!

The History of the Cry Baby

The Cry Baby is an iconic guitar effects pedal created by Thomas Organ in 1966. It was developed from the original “Fuzz-Tone” effect of the same year, designed to mimic the sound of Jimi Hendrix’s classic fuzz-heavy recordings.

The Cry Baby is essentially a variable low-pass filter, created with a circuit board and a potentiometer. This creates a wide range of distortion tones that are determined by how open or closed the potentiometer is set. It gives musicians the ability to achieve an array of subtle and dramatic changes within their soundscape.

The original Cry Baby was made in much the same way it is today, with a foot pedal connected to an input jack, through which electric guitar signals are pushed and manipulated. The results were powerful and dynamic sounds that forever changed how music is composed. Since its invention over five decades ago, this humble little effect processor has gone on to become one of the most widely used items in rock n’ roll history.

Over time, various refinements have been made to the Cry Baby design including newer models with multiple controls for greater manipulation capabilities, as well as larger vehicle size versions for better performance during live performances. Finer electronics have also improved its response time and allow for more harmonically correct output tones than ever before. With such innovation and consistent improvement it’s no wonder why these classic effects will always remain popular amongst serious musicians around the globe!

How the Cry Baby Was Invented

In the late 1960s, two versions of the Cry Baby effect were invented by two different people: The Dunlop Cry Baby was created by engineer and musician Brad Plunkett; and the Univox Super-Fuzz was conceived by tone designer Mike Matthews. Both designs utilized a unique wah-wah filter circuit to boost low-end frequencies, enhance harmonic content, and produce extreme sound effects.

The Dunlop Cry Baby is widely recognized as the first true wah pedal ever released on the commercial market. It was based off of a homemade design Brad Plunket crafted while working at the Thomas Organ Company factory in Southern California. His invention involved stepping on a switch to activate an inductor that causes a low-frequency boost from a resistor-capacitor pair wired directly into an amplifier’s input jack.

The Univox Super Fuzz was also released during this time period as a distortion/fuzz pedal manufactured by Japanese electronics maker Matsumoku. Mike Matthews designed this unit with an extra frequency control knob for maximum sound sculpting ability. The distinctively edgy sound this pedal produced quickly earned it cult status among rock musicians – most notably guitar hero Jimi Hendrix who used the device frequently on recordings and shows.

These two groundbreaking devices were revolutionary inventions at their time and they served as catalysts that spawned an entire new genre of effects pedals including delay units, synthesizers, octave dividers, envelope filters, modulation effects boxes, harmonizers and much more. Today these circuits form the basis of many modern music production tools and they can be found powering countless stages around the world.

The Legacy of the Cry Baby

The Cry Baby is one of the most iconic guitar effects in music history. Its unmistakable sound has been featured on countless records and is beloved by guitarists around the world. Its invention dates back to the mid-1960s, when acclaimed engineer and producer Roger Mayer developed it for use by notable musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Brian May of Queen, and more. Let’s explore the legacy of the Cry Baby and how its unique sound has shaped modern music.

The Impact of the Cry Baby

Although the Cry Baby was initially met with skepticism from guitar players, who claimed it sounded too much like a violin bow drawn across strings, its popularity steadily increased with famous musicians like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The Cry Baby was eventually embraced by rock, blues, funk and jazz players alike as an innovative tool for producing versatile sounds. It had the capability to add depth to one’s playing style and create unique effects never heard before. It allowed them to put more ‘personality’ in their sound and opened up a whole new world of sonic possibilities. As its usage expanded beyond just Blues and Rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix to reach Metal pioneers Pantera and Megadeth the Cry Baby unearthed the potential for extreme distortion capabilities essential for heavy metal music.

The Cry Baby quickly dominated most guitar effects pedals sold in the market because of its convenience of being single knob operated with quick adaptation ability that could be added to any playing style. The accessibility of the Cry Baby aftermarket mods created a thriving modding community which actually improved existing products by giving it extra features such as a more effective sweep range post-1990s etc. Additionally this helped make pedalboards smaller due to one multi-purpose pedal easily taking care of dynamic control rather than typical 3 or 4 knob control offering limited range for dynamic control.

As many talented guitarists used the effect pioneered by Dunlop Manufacturing Inc., it soon became an integral part of many guitarist’s sounds. While it occupies a rather prominent place on stages and studios today, this iconic piece of equipment stands as an example of how technology can drastically shift what is possible in any artistic form – in this case through music creation via creating entirely new genre specific soundscapes through this simple single knob wah pedal unit made popularly known as ‘Cry Baby’.

How the Cry Baby Is Used Today

The Cry Baby has come to be an iconic guitar effect and has been used by a wide range of musicians since its inception. It is a great way to experiment and try out new sounds, as it offers a range of wah parameters that can be manipulated to create anything from classic ‘wah-wah’ sounds to high-gain distortion.

The Cry Baby is still popular today, and has been featured on thousands of recordings since it was first released. Its sonic versatility means it can be used both in the studio and on stage, with many guitarists opting to set up their own Cry Baby pedal board with multiple units. From blues rockers like Jimmy Page, David Gilmour and Slash to funk shredders like Eddie Van Halen and Prince – the Cry Baby offers an unmistakable sound that can be heard in virtually every genre imaginable.

It can also be used as part of a multi-effect rig or paired with other distortion pedals for even greater tonal options. In addition, there are several aftermarket modifications available that allow for remote switching or adjustable frequency ranges for more precise control over your sound. The Cry Baby continues to evolve with the times, offering unique ways for guitarists to create their own “secret sauce” tone that stands out from the rest!


In conclusion, the Cry Baby guitar effect pedal has been an iconic piece of gear for decades. It has been used by some of the biggest names in music, from Jimi Hendrix to Slash. It remains a popular effect pedal to this day, as more and more guitarists discover its unique sound. The pedal has a long and storied history, tracing back to its invention in the 1960s. Despite the changing trends in music, the Cry Baby remains a reliable staple in the industry thanks to its versatility and unique tone.

Summary of the Cry Baby

The Cry Baby is an iconic guitar effects pedal that utilizes a wah-wah circuit to shape the sound of an electric guitar. It was invented by Thomas Organ Company engineer Brad Plunkett in 1966 and has become one of the most widely recognized and sought-after pedals by beginners and professionals alike. The Cry Baby pedals offer variations in sound that range from slight boosting to more severe phasing, distortion, and fuzz effects.

The original pedal was simple in design – two potentiometers (pots) which varied the frequency of a signal – but it quickly became popular when players discovered it produced unique sounds for guitar solos. Subsequent generations of Cry Baby pedals included adjustable parameters such as Q, sweep range, amplitude resonance, gain level control, and other features to further customize their sound.

There are numerous types of wah-wah pedals on the market today with almost every major guitar effects company producing their own versions. Whether you are looking for a lighter tone or more extreme effects, using a Cry Baby can help you get the sound you want out of your instrument – just remember to be creative!

The Future of the Cry Baby

The invention of the Cry Baby has forever revolutionized the sound of electric guitarists around the world, becoming commonplace in many genres of music. Through its various iterations and continuous advancements—such as modern features such as dual and triple pedals or expression outputs—it continues to be used by musical icons year after year.

From bedroom guitar players to seasoned professionals, the Cry Baby remains a reliable and essential piece of equipment for many. Rightfully so too; it is easily one of the most recognizable guitar effects ever made! As technology in audio keeps advancing, fans will continue to ask—what new iteration or version might be released next?

What’s more, there’s no doubt that future copies or imitations of the Cry Baby will hit the market for different budgets and wants. For example, since it’s initial invention over half a century ago, many companies have released their own versions that aim to capture similar sounds for less money. Despite these options though, purists still stand firm in their convictions that an original Cry Baby is still remembered as one of the best on-board wah effects even today.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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