Jim Dunlop / California Dreaming

Sunday, 09. 11. 2011

During third year at art school it was necessary to be dispatched on a placement, either to another art school like Rhode Island, or to a design related position within industry. I was playing a lot of guitar at the time, traveling back to Dunfermline at weekends to rehearse with a band who were beginning to establish a name within Scotland’s central belt. Through family friends, who knew Jim and his wife, I arranged an industrial placement to ‘Jim Dunlop Manufacturing’ of Benicia California. Jim was, and still is, a legend in guitar circles, mainly as a result of his ‘Cry Baby Wah Wah’ pedal which is used by… pretty much everybody; Clapton, Beck, Slash. Jim’s company also manufacture what seems like the majority of plectrums, and guitar players will be familiar with his signature which is imprinted on the face of each pick. Another little known fact, and one that probably at least in part aided my cause, is that Jim is a fellow Scot, from Springburn in Glasgow. Despite living in North America for 30 years, his accent was as strong as mine.

Jim Dunlop and office

So, at the age of 20 off I went to California to work in an environment which combined design and guitar. I couldn’t quite believe it, and as I’m writing this I still can’t. Jim and his family were great to me, and even gave me an old Mercedes to run about in. There were times when I thought I was in a Lewis Carroll novel. The whole experience was as surreal as it was magical.

During the months with at Dunlop I worked on new capo designs which found their way into the market. It was easy to see how Jim and Dunlop had become successful. The office environment was laid back but tremendously hard working, focused and there was a healthy sense of urgency. When I was leaving for the airport to catch the flight home Jim handed me a box which I rightly guessed contained a Wah Wah pedal;’there’s one other guy who has a pedal configured like this’, he said, ‘and his name is Eric Clapton’.

Don's California Merc

I still have that pedal :-)

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