Jim Dunlop: 1936-2019

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Editorial
  • February 2019
• Created: February 18, 2019

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On February 8, Jim Dunlop – founder of Dunlop Manufacturing and an innovator of electric guitar accessories – passed away at the age of 82. Be it a pedal, pick, capo, or strap, there is hardly a guitarist alive who’s never played or purchased something created or marketed by Dunlop.

His quest for precision led to a life- and industry-changing decision when Jim chose to become a maker of guitar picks gauged by their actual thickness in 1965 (this may seem obvious or even mundane to today’s players, but 50 years ago it was truly groundbreaking).

Drawing upon feedback from musicians and his own engineering skills (he had worked as a machinist) Dunlop experimented with materials and shapes to best address and respond to guitarists’ needs, culminating in Tortex picks, which remain one of the top-selling plectrums in the world. The material used is more durable than traditional celluloid picks and harder than nylon, and the picks have been embraced by the likes of Metallica and Nirvana.

Responding to his passing, Pearl Jam posted the following on Twitter: “Pearl Jam, like so many other artists, have benefitted from the musical innovations of @jimdunlopusa.

Jim Dunlop Sr., you will forever be missed, sir, but rest at peace knowing your legacy is an enduring one… from rock stars to beginners, and generations both old and young.”

On Instagram, Slash posted: “RIP #JimDunlop the innovator who’s company Dunlop Manufacturing has supplied me with just about every guitar accessory I have ever used. We’re going to miss you man.”

In the ‘80s Jim made the foray into the world of stompbox effects, acquiring the legendary Cry Baby and MXR lines. This would lead to collaborations with the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Dimebag Darrell, as well as a number of innovative product introductions. Cry Baby, in fact, was in dire straits before Dunlop stepped in. The pedal – made famous by Jimi Hendrix and others – was even off the market for a few months in the beginning of the decade, but thanks to Jim’s tenacity and attention to detail, it’s now a go-to in the arsenal of many an electric guitarist.

In addition to his professional achievements, Dunlop was widely known and appreciated as a generous, kind soul who would always go the extra mile to help artists and friends, alike.

The industry has lost a true giant, but Dunlop has left an impressive legacy that will live on for decades to come and a spirit that will inspire and encourage musicians and entrepreneurs.

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