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Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World
March 17, 2011 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World. An hour-long docu about the device born out of an organ company's need to replace a $4 switch with a 30 cent potentiometer. The Wah-Wah pedal's influence on rock and r & b (among other things) is indisputable. And yes, it is still in production today.
posted by grabbingsand (45 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love the Wah and can't wait to watch this documentary.

Where's my wah-wah?

Aw man, I traded it away to clear a $50 debt when I was pretty sure I was done with guitar solos for ever.
posted by entropone at 10:30 AM on March 17, 2011


I have one! None of my other effects can put a smile on someone's face better than my Cry Baby. Every guitarist should have one.
posted by tommasz at 10:30 AM on March 17, 2011


Chet Atkins invented the wah pedal a good 5 years before Thomas Organ, and can be heard on 1961's "Boo Boo Stick Beat". He took a steel player's volume pedal & put a tone pot in it instead of a volume pot. WWIW I heard the story from the horse's mouth.
posted by Nipsey at 10:34 AM on March 17, 2011


i watched this last night (thanks juju!) and it's great. covers everything in depth from "shaft" to "voodoo chile" to 'tales of brave ulysses", from jeff beck to alice in chains and much, much more! lots of guitar greats relating wah stories and ephemera.

+11111111 will watch again!
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:39 AM on March 17, 2011


Chet Atkins invented the wah pedal a good 5 years before Thomas Organ, and can be heard on 1961's "Boo Boo Stick Beat". He took a steel player's volume pedal & put a tone pot in it instead of a volume pot.

Not the same thing at all. Tone control circuits are simple treble rolloffs, and there's no inductor.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:43 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not the same thing at all. Tone control circuits are simple treble rolloffs, and there's no inductor.
For the sake of a layman discussion, semantics. I didn't go into detail.

The fact remains that he invented the pedal a minimum 5 years before. He was well ahead of his time in the world of electronics, and had built 2 recording studios in his homes before 1959(!).
posted by Nipsey at 10:51 AM on March 17, 2011


Nthing my love of my wah-wah pedal. I particularly love guitarists who use it for more subtle effects.
posted by Hylas at 10:52 AM on March 17, 2011


Back in college when I did "experimental" music (ok, ok, it was noodling), I would hook up a wah pedal to all sorts of devices like old Casio keyboards and loops of banging on pots and trash cans. I also blew my own mind with it trying to replicate Syd-era Pink Floyd on the cheap Fender knockoff I had. Good times.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:55 AM on March 17, 2011


I recall reading somewhere that James Hetfield had a wah pedal mounted in one particular position and held in place somewhere in his signal chain, using it just as a tone adjustment. Unlike Kirk Hammet who may have his surgically attached to the foot.
posted by Brainy at 10:57 AM on March 17, 2011


I recall reading somewhere that James Hetfield had a wah pedal mounted in one particular position and held in place somewhere in his signal chain
"Money for Nothing" is a similar effect- fixed wah.
posted by Nipsey at 11:04 AM on March 17, 2011


You know, I lost one of the rubber feet from my Cry-Baby probably ten years ago, and I never managed to replace it. I just stick a small paperback or a deck of cards under that corner when I play. I feel a little bad for disrespecting the hardware now.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:07 AM on March 17, 2011


My cry baby goes in the urn - wait it is my urn! Put my ashes IN my cry baby!
posted by victors at 11:10 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm no shredding soloist, but using a wah as a notch filter is amazing.

And the tone-control-as-wah isn't the same as a real wah. The tone pot is a treble rolloff. It is similar but not the same.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:10 AM on March 17, 2011


"Money for Nothing" is a similar effect- fixed wah.

I'm surprised that there aren't more pedals that are a wah circuit with a knob instead of the expression pedal, for people that want that wah in a certain spot sound.

Love the sound of Wah so much (and filters in general) that I built my own from a Buildyourownclone.com kit. Some Day, I'm going to buy one of the shells from smallbearelec.com and build it in some weird color with extra switches and gee-gahs.
posted by drezdn at 11:19 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a bass player, one of the coolest uses of wah on bass.
posted by drezdn at 11:24 AM on March 17, 2011


I heart my Cry-Baby. It's just a bog-standard one but so modified now that I'm a bit worried about it dying - I can't be arsed with soldering any more.

Love it to bits, though.
posted by littleredspiders at 11:25 AM on March 17, 2011


We have one here too!
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:27 AM on March 17, 2011


Here's a wah-wah circuit.

Here's another.

As you can see, there's a bit more to it than a pedal attached to a tone pot.

To oversimplify, what you have is parallel low-pass and high-pass filters rigged to pot that allows you to sweep both through a frequency range.

I believe the old Foxx pedal could be set to either peak or notch (along with some other crazy analog effects).
posted by Herodios at 11:27 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


WWIW I heard the story from the horse's mouth.

WDTM?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2011


Of course it's still in production today. Why wouldn't it be?
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:35 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]




WWIW I heard the story from the horse's mouth.

WDTM?


Bad horsie. . . .
posted by Herodios at 11:35 AM on March 17, 2011


Whoa, what year is this from? EVH looks pretty good.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:40 AM on March 17, 2011


I'm surprised that there aren't more pedals that are a wah circuit with a knob instead of the expression pedal, for people that want that wah in a certain spot sound

Always wondered if the guitar solo on the title cut of CSNY album Deja Vu was a wah wah set in that way.
posted by hal9k at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2011


Wak-chung-wakawaka Wak-chung-wakachaka -- ChuckaChaWow!

You can borrow any of my pedals save for the Cry Baby.
posted by djrock3k at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2011


As you can see, there's a bit more to it than a pedal attached to a tone pot.

To oversimplify, what you have is parallel low-pass and high-pass filters rigged to pot that allows you to sweep both through a frequency range.


Again, I was paraphrasing Mr Atkins' own words. Do you think he was wrong?


WWIW I heard the story from the horse's mouth.

WDTM?

Bad horsie. . . .

/now that's my fault, FWIW obviously.. carry on
posted by Nipsey at 12:22 PM on March 17, 2011


Oh yeah, bought a new Cry Baby in '76, it still works fine but the gears slip so it won't stay in position when you take your foot off it. And I lost one of the feet. I wish I could find someone to fix my old pedal.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:53 PM on March 17, 2011


It's fun to watch a guitarist use one for the first time.
It is apparently impossible to avoid having your mouth echo the wah-wah of the pedal.


My knock-off had a switch to go between "Bow-wow" and Yoy-Yoy."
posted by cccorlew at 1:03 PM on March 17, 2011


Hush now.
posted by squalor at 1:03 PM on March 17, 2011


I was paraphrasing Mr Atkins' own words. Do you think he was wrong?

most definitely. listen to 'boo boo stick beat'. it doesn't even sound like a wah. it sounds like, ah, a tone control getting rolled open. telecaster players do that with their pinky.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:09 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]



I was paraphrasing Mr Atkins' own words. Do you think he was wrong?

This information. . .

Chet Atkins invented the wah pedal [by taking] a steel player's volume pedal & put[ing] a tone pot in it

. . . is wrong.

A passive high-freq roll-off control attached to a pedal is not the same thing as an active sweeping filter attached to a pedal.

But:

If you are looking for 'prior art', consider the first horn player to employ a plunger mute, which must've been in the 1920s or before. That's an even earlier, manually controlled, analog frequency sweep filter used for a musical effect.

Ultra-low-tech and pretty effective in the right hands.
posted by Herodios at 1:30 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is apparently impossible to avoid having your mouth echo the wah-wah of the pedal.

I think this is how the Talk Box + Wah Wah got invented, and then hammered into the ground by the likes of Frampton.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:38 PM on March 17, 2011


Nevermind that the Crybaby sucks the living tone out of your entire pedal chain when you switch it off, Hendrix used one!

Dear friends, please mod your wah for true bypass, we live in the future now.
posted by mhjb at 1:58 PM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Prior art:
Chris Kelly was an important early jazz musician in New Orleans. His importance came not from his technique — which has been characterized as weak — but because Kelly was credited with being one of the first widely recognized players to become a master of “kitchen mechanics” which is to say an expert using a plunger with his cornet, a mute that allows the player to shape notes with vocal-like inflections.
-- Jonathan D. Harnum, The Plunger as a Symbol of Identity in Early New Orleans Jazz
Kelly's famous feature was "Careless Love" [1918] which he played into a plunger-mute at a time when the technique was new; the effect of the rendition (it was claimed) made men weep and women tear their clothes off.
-- Digby Fairweather, The Rough Guide to Jazz

Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton was a famous trombonist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Nanton was one of the great pioneers of the plunger mute. Together with his musical soulmate Bubber Miley on trumpet, Nanton is largely responsible for creating the characteristic Wah-wah sounds copied by many later brass soloists in the swing era. In 1921, Nanton heard Johnny Dunn playing the trumpet with a plunger, which Nanton realized could be used to similar effect on the trombone.
-- Wikipedia entry
posted by Herodios at 2:10 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that there aren't more pedals that are a wah circuit with a knob instead of the expression pedal, for people that want that wah in a certain spot sound.

Auto-wah pedals do have that capability, though I'm not sure they sound as good as the real thing. Also Zappa was a big fan of setting a wah in one position for a particularly nasal tone that sounded pretty killer with some distortion in the chain as well.
posted by Clustercuss at 2:54 PM on March 17, 2011


I remember the day I brought home my Crybaby. Hooked my $40 guitar into it, then the pedal into the $35.00 amp...

In The White Room! With Black Curtains! Tired Farthings!
[unclaptonesque squealing]
Restless Windows Goodbye Station At The Something!
[unclaptonesque squealing]
She's Just Telling, Tired Secrets. In Your Dark Room!
[unclaptonesque squealing]

Then 17 hours trying to figure out Hendrix's Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


hmmm, i guess i should pull mine out of the closet and play a few notes on it. thanks for posting this.
posted by sleepy pete at 5:02 PM on March 17, 2011


eh, wah-wahs are nice, but my love is the phase shifter and flanger sound. I like being underwater
posted by Redhush at 5:29 PM on March 17, 2011


They make pretty good hammers. Mine disappeared after using it as a hammer a few times, though, either spirited away by the ghost of Jimi Hendrix or possibly (more likely) a friend who was rightly horrified by my lack of respect. Sigh.
posted by empyrean at 7:14 PM on March 17, 2011


I always felt like Cry Babies had more cred, btw, but the Morley was obviously vastly superior.

Yeah, I went there.
posted by empyrean at 7:15 PM on March 17, 2011


I've been considering getting a wah for a long time now. I think this may have pushed me over the edge.

I don't do much soloing--I really like how J Robbins uses his, shifting from low to high and I imagine that's how I'd put it to use. Any recommendations on a specific pedal to check out?
posted by Maaik at 7:34 PM on March 17, 2011


I'll argue in Atkins' favor. A foot controlled filter describes exactly what a wah is, and what Atkins used. That one was passive, and the other active is merely a refinement.

Tone control circuits are simple treble rolloffs, and there's no inductor.

Except when they use inductors. Yeah, passive LRC filter circuits were once more common than they are now, and sometimes got insanely complex. Furthermore, under the right combination of treble bleed, pickup inductance, and impedance of the following circuit, a simple typical guitar tone control can get kinda wah-ish, as it forms a neat little resonant circuit.

The neat thing about the old Crybaby circuit is that it's so wrong by modern standards, yet so well loved that almost no refinements have been made in almost a half century. I suspect it might have been a hack of a circuit even back when it first came out, yet has gained such legendary status, it remains almost exactly as is (was).
posted by 2N2222 at 9:42 PM on March 17, 2011


edit: that the other is active, is merely a refinement.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:44 PM on March 17, 2011


Now that I think about it, ISTR session guitarist/tinker Vinnie Bell had some early claim on the use of wah pedal, among other neat gimmicks. I think I read an interview of him back in the 80s, describing playing the "chick-chick" guitar part on "Walk On By" by Dionne Warwick by using some kind of wah circuit, parked in one spot to give a distinctive nasal/quacky tone. This would have been before '65 or so.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:06 PM on March 17, 2011


It has helpedsave souls.
posted by arse_hat at 11:15 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


An inductor isn't absolutely essential to have in a wah, as the Colorsound Wah didn't have one.
posted by drezdn at 5:27 AM on March 18, 2011


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