Jim Dunlop, founder of Dunlop Manufacturing and enormously influential innovator of picks, capos, and other guitar accessories, has passed away.
He was 82 years old.
Born in Scotland in 1936, Jim traveled to Canada as a young man looking for new opportunities. There he met his bride and mother of his children, Bernice, and the two of them headed to California for warmer weather. By the 1960s, he had started a family and was working as a machinist and then mechanical engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Off-hours, he turned his lifelong interest in music to creating accessories for guitar players.
Jim’s fearless, innovative spirit led him to turn his hobby into a livelihood, and in 1965, he founded Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc. Finding local success with handmade capos, he made the life-changing decision to become a maker of guitar picks when his obsession for precision drove him to design guitar picks gauged by their true thickness. Jim made a personal commitment to expanding the options available to guitar players of the time, introducing strict quality control and a wider variety of gauges than had ever been available before. He blended the advice of musicians with his precise engineering intuition as he experimented with numerous shapes and materials so that players could find the right pick and get the most out of it. One of the greatest triumphs to come from that experimentation was Tortex Picks, which is the #1 pick in the world today.
In the 1980s, Jim boldly entered the effects market, assembling a crack team of engineers and securing top-quality parts. He acquired beloved brands such as Cry Baby and MXR and expanded their offerings while remaining true to their legacies and introducing a level of quality and consistency where it had never existed before. Taking on electronics blew the door wide open for Jim’s company, leading to collaborations with the family of Jimi Hendrix and numerous artists such as Eddie Van Halen, Dimebag Darrell, and Slash to make the sounds of the world’s top players available to everyone around the world. Today, Dunlop Manufacturing is one of the world’s largest pedal companies.
It would be difficult to find a guitar player who hasn’t been affected by Jim’s thoughtful innovations. Ever attentive to their needs, Jim will live on in the many products that he created to provide people with a better playing experience.
Jim was widowed by Bernice in 2001 and is survived by Linda, wife of 7 years; daughter Jasmin Powell, married to Glenn; son Jimmy Dunlop, married to Elizabeth; and grandchildren Alyssa Powell, Krista Powell, and Max Dunlop.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to MusiCares in Jim’s name.