Jim Dunlop: Who Was He And What Did He Do For Music?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

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Jim Dunlop is an American-Scottish engineer and the founder of Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc., a leading manufacturer of musical accessories and effects units.

Based in Benicia, California, Dunlop began his company in 1965 as a small home operation.

Today, it has grown into a large manufacturer of music gear, thanks to Dunlop’s acquisitions of well-known brands such as Cry Baby, MXR and Way Huge.

What was jim dunlop


James C. Dunlop, commonly known as Jim Dunlop, was an innovative and award-winning businessman who helped shape the future of music through the creation and development of some of its most recognizable products. He founded Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc., in 1965 with a mission to make musical instruments more accessible to all levels of musicians. From his revolutionary invention of the “crybaby” wah-wah pedal to his full line of pick guards, straps, and other accessories — Dunlop products have become integral components in many professional guitarists’ rigs. In this article we will explore who Jim Dunlop was and what he achieved for music before his passing in 2013 at age 80.

Early Life

Jim Dunlop, real name James D. Dunlop Jr., was born on July 9th, 1942, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was raised in a musical family, with his mother being a piano teacher, and his father a jazz trumpeter. Growing up, Jim was surrounded by music and it was this environment which would eventually shape his career.

Family Background

James Dunlop was born on August 29th, 1958 in Glasgow, Scotland. He was the oldest of three sons born to his parents, William and Esther Dunlop. His father owned a fish and chips shop while his mother was a homemaker. Jim had two brothers, Michael and Brian; both were passionate music lovers like their older sibling.

Jim attended Robert Gordon’s School in Aberdeen before enrolling at the University of Stirling to pursue further studies in business administration. At a young age he started displaying an enthusiasm for music that soon became his driving force in life. At university he played bass with several blues bands and formed close relationships with other budding musicians around him – some of whom went on to achieve commercial success.

Jim’s musical career soon took off when he secured a job running Rosetti Music’s G&L (Guitars & Longhorns) division, which manufactured amplifiers and loudspeakers for music manufacturers such as Marshall Amplification and Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC). During this time Jim acquired knowledge about producing guitar effects pedals as well as guitars themselves – an area of expertise that eventually earned him a place in rock ‘n’ roll history when he founded his own company “Jim Dunlop Manufacturing Inc” (JDM) in 1965.


Jim Dunlop was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1948. He had a strong interest in engineering, which he later drew upon once he began his career as a music innovator. After leaving school, he enrolled at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow to study mechanical engineering, graduating with honors after four years of study.

Dunlop then joined the Bassoon Industrial Company Ltd. where he applied his degree to designing tools and products for the agricultural industry. In 1972, Dunlop was offered a job at nearby Corby Trouser Press and moved to Paisley; taking on the role of assistant design engineer there, he began experimenting with design ideas for musical instruments and accessory products. His first invention was an improved guitar pick holder; this became known as the famed “Tortex” pick and remained popular among guitarists for decades until it was discontinued in 2020.


Jim Dunlop was an innovator in the music world, constantly combining creative ideas with technical expertise to create unique products. He started his career in music by creating a series of pickups and pedals that changed the sound of electric guitar. His innovative designs brought together classic sounds and modern technology with a focus on quality. His career helped shape the sound of modern music.

Early Career

Jim Dunlop is widely recognized for his work in the music industry, from designing and manufacturing the signature accessory series of music gear to managing major bands. But before all of that, Jim Dunlop went through a period of education and honing his craft.

Born in Paisley, Scotland, Dunlop had developed an interest in music at a young age — entering into a competition at the local Young Scottish Music Festival when he was just 11 years old. He went on to attend the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow where he gained instruction in electronic engineering, then transferred to Heriot-Watt University to complete his degree.

After graduating college with an Honours degree and going on to work as a sound engineer at BBC Radio Scotland, Dunlop eventually opened his own repair shop for musical instruments and amplifiers called VIP Sound Services. During this period he drew on his university experience along with knowledge accrued from professional repair technicians throughout Europe and Japan to acquire new skills which would build the groundwork for things come later — particularly when Dunlop began specializing in building custom guitar effects pedals for clients such as members of U2, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd bands.

Dunlop Manufacturing Company

Jim Dunlop founded the Dunlop Manufacturing Company in 1965. Located in Benicia, California, the brand produced custom molds of Dunlop’s mass-produced guitar picks and straps. These accessories became so popular that they were named one of the Top Ten Most Innovative Music Products or Companies of All Time by Rhythm Magazine in 2006. After this initial success, Jim continued to expand the company’s offerings to include strings, string slides, capos, slides, amps and other effects.

Dunlop also collaborated with some of the greatest musicians in rock industry such as Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain to develop their own signature products. This was done for artist endorsements and provided access to unique items for consumers around the world. To this day, JDMC continues to produce innovative products for both professional and amateur musicians alike.

Aside from manufacturing guitar accessories, Jim Dunlop also did outstanding charity work through The Jim Dunlop Benevolence Fund which aims to use music education as an agent for social change within communities across America. The foundation provides educational materials and instruments to children who are interested in music but can’t afford them; thus providing more opportunities for children’s personal growth through musical mastery.


The legacy of Jim Dunlop lives on today, as his pioneering work spanned from developments in strings, picks, and fingerboards to his most successful inventions, the MXR line of effects pedals. Dunlop Manufacturing continued to build on the success of the innovator’s original products, and released new items to complement his beloved designs. In addition to making effects pedals for guitarists of all levels, Jim Dunlop was responsible for creating some of the best instruments and accessories for bassists across the globe.

Beyond creating products for musicians, Jim Dunlop gave back to the industry that had given him so much success. He was active in providing support and education to luthiers and instrument repair technicians throughout North America and Europe with seminars, factory tours and product demonstrations. His tireless dedication earned him awards such as an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music as well as inductions into the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

With a successful background in music technology that falls between traditional systems engineering methods and electrical experimentation, Jim Dunlop left an indelible mark on guitar players around the world before his death in 2009—and beyond. In recognition of this illustrious career at the vanguard of musical technology, Jim Dunlop has received honorable mentions from Guitar Player magazine who published a tribute article celebrating his life’s work shortly after his death. To this day both professional artists who have achieved commercial success as well as amateur all-stars still bask in inspiration from his musical creations that have enriched lives ever since their inception more than four decades ago.

Major Contributions to Music

Jim Dunlop was a key player in the music industry, revolutionizing the game with his groundbreaking inventions and products. His inventions and creations revolutionized the way we think about and interact with the instruments we play. His products have become essential tools for many professional and amateur musicians alike. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest contributions he made to music.

Development of the Wah-Wah Pedal

In 1967, Jim Dunlop released the original Clyde McCoy Cry Baby Wah-Wah Pedal, which has had a major impact in the industry. By popularizing the technology in music, it opened up new sounds and ideas which were adopted by artists of all kinds.

The idea for the pedal was born from Rodney Mullen’s talking bass technique from his hits like Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” and began to be seen more widely when Jimi Hendrix popularized the sound using the Dunlop Wah-Wah Pedal. The company was acquired by Dunlop Manufacturing in 1967, who incorporated their own innovations such as longer battery life and true bypass switching into their version of the pedal.

The introduction of this pedal allowed amps to produce much more sustain and distorted guitar signals without overpowering it’s sound. Buyers could shift between smooth and juddering sounds with a simple stomp of the foot, making their live performances more versatile than ever before.

Many other types of effects pedals were created based on this idea – phasers, flangers, pitch shifters – leading to greater creative possibilities in music production that are still being studied and explored today. The Wah-Wah Pedal continues to be used by musicians across all genres alongside various multi-effects pedals equipped with numerous tones that add texture each individual track or performance.

Introduction of the Cry Baby Pedal

Jim Dunlop was perhaps best known for his invention of the Cry Baby, a wah-wah pedal for electric guitar. The effect had been used before, but his electronic wah-wah design drastically improved on the original mechanical version. He developed the pedal in a search for a more reliable and stable tone than what was currently available. It quickly became popular with rock and funk guitarists alike, as well as becoming an essential part of many other musical genres like soul and blues. To this day, the Cry Baby continues to be one of the most iconic pedals on the market and has been used on countless recordings by legendary guitarists and bands around the world. Without this revolutionary piece of equipment, it’s hard to imagine some of these songs being created. In addition to his most popular technological achievement, Jim Dunlop also contributed significantly to improving pick technology playing feel and durability with nylon materials; two innovations that continue to influence guitarists today.

Development of the MXR Effects Pedals

In 1972, Jim Dunlop was busy creating effects pedals for musicians. His invention, the MXR Dyna Comp Pedal, was the first mass-produced pedal of its kind and allowed musicians to be able to add variations of tone to their sound when playing. The initial run only consisted of 5 effect versions; Flanger, Reverb, Delay/Echo, Phase Shifter and Distortion. It revolutionized guitar solos by allowing guitarist to better control their sound while playing as they had more control over expression.

Most famous at the time was a pedal model known as the MXR-107 Phase 90 which eventually become an industry standard used throughout live performance and studio recording. This marked a major contribution to music production that has transcended through generations and continues to shape music today in both creative uses ranging from special effect sounds to modulation distortion pedals used in metal music. The influence of MXR effects pedals on rock and metal music is unmistakable as it has left an impression on popular electronics industry for decades.


In conclusion, Jim Dunlop was a visionary in the music world who revolutionized the way guitarists play. His innovative products have been used in many guitar rigs throughout the years and they have taken rock and roll to a new level. His world-renowned name will remain well-known in the music community for years to come, and he has left a lasting impact on not only guitarists but all musicians.

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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