Believe it or not, there actually was a time when there was no wah wah. It’s hard to imagine funk, blues, rock, and soul—and guitar music in general—without the vocal, squawky, yow-y sounds that the wah pedal can produce. But it’s true. There wasn’t always wah. Someone had to invent it. Someone did, and things have never been the same. And much like all cola beverages came to be associated with one iconic brand name, the world knows wah wah by the name Cry Baby®. To find out how we got to this funky, expressive, Cry Baby place, however, we need to back up.
The year: 1966. Enter Thomas Organ Company engineer Brad Plunkett, an engineer tasked with coming up with a tone circuit. While testing, he discovered that he had accidentally invented something way beyond a normal tone control. Plunkett put it into a volume pedal housing, and, although there was no way he could have known it at the time, he changed the world. That device, which would soon be dubbed the Cry Baby, found its way onto history-making tracks by Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and those sounds would profoundly influence subsequent generations of guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Slash, and many, many others.