Gibson Les Paul Junior
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|Gibson Les Paul Jr.|
Gibson Les Paul Junior
|Period||1954 — 1960|
|Sunburst, Ebony, TV Yellow, White, Red|
The Gibson Les Paul Jr. was a solid body electric guitar introduced in 1954 as an affordable, entry-level Les Paul. It was first released with a single cut body style; models with a double cut body style were later introduced in 1958.
The goal for the Les Paul Jr. was to have a high-quality guitar that was still affordable. This was achieved by stripping the Gibson Les Paul down to the basics: one pickup, one volume knob and tone knob. It was equipped with one P-90 dog ear pickup in the bridge. It was originally released in sunburst, but Gibson also introduced the TV version (a kind of yellow, also known as TV Yellow) for professional musicians, who would be featured playing the guitar on television; the yellow would look white on black and white television, without the glare of an actual white finish.
In the 1960s and 1970s the Les Paul Jr. became very popular because of its simplicity and distinguishable tone when played through a high gain amplifier. The P-90 pickup gave the guitar a distinct crunch that was desired by rock and blues players of the time, including Leslie West of Mountain, Luther Grosvenor (a.k.a. Ariel Bender) of Spooky Tooth and Mott the Hoople, and Johnny Thunders of The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers. A Les Paul Junior also became John Lennon's main guitar during his post-Beatles years.
The Les Paul Junior was originally introduced in 1954 as a single cutaway model, with its double cutaway counterpart arriving to the market in early 1958. Color schemes most commonly placed on Juniors were vintage sunburst, cherry red, and TV yellow. In 2012, two rare black models with tortoiseshell pickguard, from 1959 and 1960, were described in Vintage Guitar; the possibility was offered that black models were special-ordered for a specific store, or that the black finish was used to cover up blemishes in the wood. In 1961, the body style of the Junior was shifted, and after conflict between Gibson and Les Paul, these models were later renamed the SG Junior.
The Les Paul Junior is still offered today in several different variations. Gibson offers U.S.A. made Les Paul Juniors which has been given modern touches including a more slim-tapered neck. These particular Juniors have been seen in several different incarnations since the mid-1980s in both single and double cut. The Gibson Custom shop has also offered a period correct Junior over the years through both its Historic and VOS branches. These models feature the more notorious large neck or "baseball bat" neck as it is often referred to among players.
Several artists have had Juniors produced in the Gibson product line including John Lennon, Mick Jones, Peter Frampton, and often included is the Bob Marley Les Paul Special. The Lennon model is unique for the single-coil, hexagon-shaped "Charlie Christian" pickup in the neck, a modification Lennon himself accepted when he had his actual Junior serviced in the 1970s, upon acquiring the guitar. (The name derives from the pickup installed on Christian's L-5 acoustic guitar.) Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Gibson have released two signature Les Paul Juniors, the first is in three custom colors including Vintage Sunburst, Classic White, and Ebony, and is based on the actual '54-'57 Juniors. It also has some modern features per-request of Armstrong, which include a slim tapered neck, as well as a special designed "H-90" Pickup which is said to be hum canceling and it is overwound to handle more distortion. Armstrong's second signature model is a double-cutaway in TV Yellow which also includes an "H-90" pickup. 
The Les Paul Special has a similar body shape, but is equipped with two P-90 pickups and Gibson's standard four-knob, three-way switch electronics.
Ace Frehley and Gibson created a unique model of this guitar: The Gibson Les Paul Jr. Lighter. It is a variation of a Les Paul Jr. with a Dimarzio Superdistortion pickup added by Ace. It contained light bulbs incorporated into sequences that turned on as a marquee, but at first there were so many lamps that gave off so much energy and heat that affected Ace, they decided to reduce them. They installed 20 cells for rechargeable batteries "C", circuits and new lamps.
Leslie West has been quoted as saying he was offered a Les Paul Junior signature model at one time but turned the idea down, because he didn't want a signature guitar based on an already-existing instrument, even though the Les Paul Junior was his signature instrument during his heyday in Mountain.
Epiphone Les Paul Junior
Epiphone, a major guitar company purchased by Gibson in 1957, sells lower cost Juniors which feature a bolt-on neck configuration as well as being outfitted with a single humbucking pickup rather than the traditional P-90. Epiphone has released limited edition models including the Collegiate Edition and the Epiphone Limited Edition '57 Les Paul Jr. Reissue with P-100, which features a set neck, all-solid mahogany construction, and a P-100 humbucker. Epiphone Japan has also released Juniors (with the Gibson headstock) including the LPJ-70 and the Ltd edition Lacquer Series Jr (both in vintage sunburst and cherry). These Juniors were pretty much dead-on regarding the original 1954 Gibson specifications but they were manufactured for the Japanese market only and not for export.
The video game Rocksmith by Ubisoft was available in a package that included a fully functional Les Paul Jr. in Vintage Sunburst, and Rocksmith 2014 is available bundled with a fully functional Les Paul Jr. in black.
Epiphone, manufactured the Invader as part of a starter pack which was marketed mostly in mainland Europe. In essence, the Invader is an identical guitar to the Epiphone Junior, with a single generic humbucker and single volume and tone pots. Invaders were manufactured by the Samick organisation in Indonesia but have now been discontinued in light of the success and production of the Junior.
Invaders are strictly budget-end instruments and do tend to suffer from the not-unusual weakness of occasionally having poor tuning stability, but these instruments can still be regarded as very useful and playable instruments. They are light, versatile, and comfortable.
As with the Junior, the Invader is the Epiphone version of the Gibson Junior and can also be seen as having links with the Gibson Melody Maker.
Gibson recently released their series of limited edition Robot Guitars. Their first was a Les Paul Standard. They later released Les Paul Studio, SG Standard, SG Special and Les Paul Junior robot guitars. These guitars had a distinct feature which made it possible for the guitar to tune itself, using its own pickups and a master control knob.
- List of Gibson players
- Gibson Melody Maker (1959-1971) - an entry level guitar model similar to Les Paul Junior but with thinner body.
- Gibson SG Junior (1961-1971) - successor of Les Paul Junior with SG shape.
- Gibson Spirit (1972-1985) - a guitar model similar to Les Paul Junior DC but with cutaway at 20th fret.
- "Les Paul Junior Single Cutaway". Zuitar.com. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- Meeker, Ward (February 2012). "Beauties in Black: The Emergence of Two Rare Gibson Les Paul Juniors". Vintage Guitar.
- Interview with Billie Joe Armstrong; re Signature Les Paul Junior; . 2006.
- Les Paul Junior at Gibson.com
- Billie Joe Armstrong Signature Les Paul Junior
- Gibson Les Paul History