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A Brief History of the '58 Les Paul Junior Doublecut

Published: Thu April 26, 2007  News Feed

In 1954, to widen the solid-body electric market still further, Gibson issued the Gibson Les Paul "Junior." Although previously, the Melody Maker was marketed toward the novice guitarist, Gibson targeted to the beginner again with a Les Paul "Junior" design; however, over time, this Gibson design has proven well-suited for even professional use.

There were marked differences between the Les Paul and the Les Paul "Junior." For instance, although the "Junior's" body outline was clearly reminiscent of the original upmarket Les Paul guitar, the Junior issue was characterized by its flat-top "slab" mahogany body, finished in traditional Gibson Sunburst. The "Junior" was touted as an inexpensive option for Gibson electric guitar buyers: it had a single P-90 pickup, simple volume and tone controls, and the unbound rosewood fingerboard bore plain dot-shape position markers. However, as a concession to the aspirations of the beginning guitarist buyer, the "Junior" did feature the stud bridge/tailpiece similar to the second incarnation of the upscale Gold-Top.

Later, in 1955, Gibson launched the Les Paul "TV "model, which was essentially a "Junior" in what Gibson called a "natural" finish. This finish was actually more of a translucent mustard yellow through which the wood grain could be seen, and was not unlike the finish that competitor Fender called "butterscotch yellow." The idea behind this "TV Yellow" was that white guitars would glare too much on early black and white television broadcasts, whereas TV Yellow guitars would not cast a glare.

In 1958, Gibson made a radical design change to their "Junior" and "TV" models: with the design change came cosmetic changes to these guitars that would later take on enormous importance. To accommodate player requests for more access to the top frets than the previous designs allowed, Gibson revamped both these electric guitar models with a new double-cutaway body shape. In addition, the "Junior's" fresh look was enhanced with a new cherry red finish, while the re-shaped "TV" adopted a new, rather yellow-tinged finish for its new design...now reissued by Gibson Custom.

Famous Players

Quite a few guitarists have been seen, over the years, playing the TV Yellow 1958 Les Paul Junior:

In the early 70's, Keith Richards was converted to the Les Paul Junior, which became one of his favorite guitars at the time. But when it came time to record (and re-record, and re-record, and re-record, as the song’s slinky grooves proved difficult to capture) the Exile single “Tumbling Dice,” Richards turned to a battered, TV yellow double-cutaway Junior that was forever after christened “Dice.”

In the cramped, stiflingly humid basement studio of Villa Nellcotte, Richard’s tax-exile estate in the South of France, Richards tuned his Junior to open-G, slapped a capo on the fourth fret and let the slippery doublestops of the song’s intro spill out into rock ’n’ roll history. Often heralded as the greatest rock record ever made, Exile is a sprawling masterpiece, and “Tumbling Dice” is one of its highlights. The song’s chunky rhythm and stinging slide runs are classic examples of both Keith’s musical swagger and the 1958 Les Paul Junior’s nasty mix of growl and chime.

 

In the late 70's, punk guitarists re-discovered the 1958  Les Paul Junior, and it became a firm favorite amongst players such as Mick Jones (The Clash) and Johnny Thunders (The New York Dolls - left). Mick Jone's Les Paul Junior is now on display at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, USA (see pic below)

click for larger image

And here we are, 50 years later, and the simplicity of the '58 Les Paul Junior still inspires new generations...

The '58 Les Paul Junior Doublecut (TV Yellow) is available from Dolphin Music. VIEW ITEM

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