He started playing guitar when he was about ten. In the early 1970s he teamed up with rock musician and visual artist Curtiss A, also known as Curt Almsted, and together they formed Thumbs Up, an "unusual mix of rhythm and blues with pop [that] has been described as early new wave". He also joined Almsted's punk-rock group, Spooks, and featured on all but one of Spooks's albums. Dunlap's work with Almsted established himself as an "intuitive, reliable musician who could fit any situation", and he attracted the attention of Paul Westerberg of The Replacements, a Minnesota-based punk/alternative rock band.
Westerberg was looking for a guitarist to replace Bob Stinson, who had been asked to leave in the mid-1980s because of his drug and alcohol problems, and approached Dunlap. Dunlap initially turned down the offer, but joined The Replacements in 1987 on account of "his admiration for Westerberg's songwriting". Dunlap's day job at the time was working as a janitor at First Avenue, a nightclub in Minneapolis, the same venue where The Replacements had launched their career in the early 1980s. Dunlap became the "replacement Replacement", and remained with the band until their breakup in 1991, featuring on their last two studio albums. In 1991 Dunlap toured with ex-Georgia Satellites lead vocalist Dan Baird to promote the Baird's solo album, Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired.
Towards the end of 1992 Dunlap started recording his own first solo album, The Old New Me, which was released in 1993. It was followed by his second solo album, Time Like This in 1996. Allmusic called The Old New Me a "rootsy, engaging ride", and Time Like This "the opposite of the Replacements' rowdy, unscripted alt-rock vitriol [that] wins on its own unobtrusive terms". Dunlap performed at the Bottom Line in New York City in December 1997, and was active in the Minneapolis area until February 2012 when he was hospitalized after suffering a severe stroke. See also: www.songsforslim.com and www.songsforslim.com/pages/slim-speaks for news about Slim and new interviews with him.
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