“I first remember hearing the sound of a Wah pedal when I was really young on ‘Voodoo Chile’ by Jimi Hendrix. Despite being created for keyboards all the real innovative guitarists from the sixties had grabbed hold of these wah effects pedals and started using them… Hendix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton. So the wah wah sound became very influential to me from an early age. As I got older I stated seeing it live with bands like Thin Lizzy who I saw in ’75 and ’76. Brian Robertson did some incredible solos using wah wah pedals and a Gibson Les Paul Custom, especially on a couple of songs in particular, ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Massacre’ from the Johnny the Fox album. Also influential of course was Mick Ronson on all the Bowie stuff particularly ‘Ziggy Stardust’ live and ‘Aladdin Sane’. I know on ‘Pinups’ a Les Paul and a wah wah pedal was used.
So as soon as I got the chance I got myself a regular Cry Baby Wah Pedal and started incorporating it into my sound and it’s one of the only pedals that I’ve got that is an expression pedal, that you can effect it and it’s different every time you do it.
Probably my most well known use of a Cry Baby is on the track ‘Phoenix’ from the ‘Love’ album back in 1985 that’s still really popular live but my favourite ever guitar solo in The Cult is my lead guitar solo featuring the wah wah on the title track from that album… ‘Love’.
As I started to get some fame as a guitarist I was lucky enough to start working with Dunlop direct to get them to modify their Cry Baby pedal to suit my style of playing. Some of those modifications have made their way into the recent production model but I’ve always had a few ‘extra’ bits and that is what has become the basis for the BD95.
Having such a close relationship with Dunlop over the years, in constantly tweaking and improving my personalized pedal, lead me to develop a friendship with Jimi Dunlop and last year we got round to chatting about taking ‘my’ pedal and creating a limited edition ‘Signature’ version that people could buy. This idea was really exciting for me following on so soon from my Gretsch White and Black Falcon Signature models and I’m really pleased it’s finally become a reality.
So, what is different about the BD95 to the standard Cry Baby model… well, my pedal is basically two Wah Wahs in one with a very easy to use ‘toe’ switch to change between modes. As this is a working developed for playing live too there is a color indicator that changes when you switch between the two modes.
Blue (of course) for the ‘Billy’ setting which is basically my customized 95Q mode that’s been my live mainstay as we’ve developed it over the years and Red for ‘Ronno’ in what I call the classic 1970’s mode.
The pedal has two different circuits inside for each mode and the only thing that stays the same is the output levels of both as I always prefer to have an automatic boost in volume when engaging the Wah in any circumstances.
The ‘Ronno’ side is based up an actual Mick Ronson Cry Baby that I believe Bob Rock got from Mick himself when they worked together in the 1980s. Bob had it copied and this is the pedal I loved and based my “classic” setting on. (I also used it during the recording of ‘Hidden City’). The differences are subtle and were best demonstrated by Mick himself more as a tonebending expression pedal than a frantic “wah wah wah” one.
Finally, I now always use the “switchless” type wah pedals that engage automatically when touched which makes transitioning in and out of wah mode playing live easier. As I’m one of the last players I guess to have all my pedals on the floor (not in a rack off stage and controlled by midi) it makes one less switch to switch so I can concentrate on the playing.
That’s the mechanics that make it different from the standard 95Q but it was also important that if I was having a ‘Signature’ model it looked like a ‘Billy Duffy’ model. That’s where Mick Peek (my pal who looks after billyduffy.com) came in as he took all my ideas and worked with the Dunlop team to pull together classic elements of different Cry Baby’s in a design that sits beautifully alongside my White Falcon. The chrome pedal top sits upon a gloss white base fronted with an engraved metal ‘Billy Duffy Cry Baby’ name plate that echoes the signature panel on my Falcon headstock. We wanted the customized name plate to sit at front of the pedal as that faces the crowd when I’m playing live. The final and most distinctive element of the BD95 is the black rubber foot pad which has my ‘Sonic Temple’ silhouette that I use as a BD logo now. All in all I think it looks and sounds amazing which hopefully any of you who’ve heard me play it at any of the ‘Alive in the Hidden City’ dates will agree.
So that’s it…. wah wah wah and remember you don’t always have to pull the “wah wah” face when you use it 😉
Billy – April 2016
For more information of where you can pick up a BD95 Billy Duffy Cry Baby visit www.jimdunlop.com