As the competition to develop and market affordable and professionally built solid body electric guitars was heating up in the mid-1950s, Gibson branched out into new directions that would eventually yield a wide variety of new and innovative Gibson products at various price points. Among those new products was the Les Paul Junior single cutaway model, which quickly became Gibson’s best-selling model and the instrument of choice for such legends as Leslie West, Steve Marriott, Keith Richards, Mick Ralphs, Mick Jones and Paul Westerberg. Today’s Les Paul Junior captures many of the same details and intensity as the original, including a 24 ¾-inch scale length mahogany neck that meets the body at the 16th fret, a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard (ebony on the Satin White finish model), Gibson’s traditional round neck profile, a wraparound bridge/tailpiece, and a single Gibson P-90 that faithfully delivers all the power and punch expected from Gibson’s legendary singlecoil pickup. Other added features include all chrome hardware, acrylic dot inlays, Gibson’s silk-screened logo on the headstock, and a corian pre-radiused nut. The Les Paul Junior from Gibson USA is available in Satin Vintage Sunburst, Satin White and Satin Cherry finishes, and comes with a plush Gibson gig bag.
The Gibson Logo
Some of the greatest guitars in the world have carried the name Gibson. The list is impressive—the Les Paul, the ES-335, the Explorer, the Flying V, the SG and, of course, the Les Paul Junior. The name “Gibson” on a headstock represents more than a century of originality and excellence. The classic logo is silk-screened onto the face of the mahogany headstock, with a thin coat of lacquer finishing the process. It is the most recognizable logo in all of music. There is simply no equal.
Gibson’s angled headstock is another of its simple, traditional innovations. Like many Gibson guitars, the headstock on the Les Paul Junior is carefully angled at 17 degrees. This increases pressure on the strings and helps them stay in place at the nut. The increase in string pressure also means there is no loss of string vibration between the nut and the tuners, which means enhanced tone and more sustain. Additionally, no Gibson headstock is “glued-on.” To the contrary, every Gibson headstock is carved out of the same piece of mahogany as the neck. It is a process that takes craftsmanship, time, and effort, but the rewards are certainly worth the hard work.
Adjustable Truss Rod
Before the 1930s, the truss rod was basically used to strengthen and stabilize the neck of any guitar. True to its heritage, Gibson revolutionized the guitar by making it adjustable, allowing guitars to be set up using a variety of string gauges, as well as string heights. This simple innovation afforded every guitar a limitless range of set-up options, and the ability to easily accommodate any style of playing. And by placing it at the base of the headstock, the adjustable nut is easily accessible, even while the strings are still on the guitar. It is one of Gibson’s most functional and enduring discoveries.
Gibson’s Traditional Rounded Neck Profile
No guitar neck profiles are more distinguishable than the neck profiles employed on the Gibson models of today. The rounded neck profile on the Les Paul Junior emulates the neck profiles most commonly found on Gibson’s iconic Les Paul models of the late ’50s. As with all Gibson necks, it is machined in Gibson’s rough mill using wood shapers to make the initial cuts. Once the rosewood fingerboard gets glued on, the rest—including the final sanding—is done by hand. That means there are no two necks with the exact same dimensions. So while it still has the basic characteristics of the rounded neck profile, each neck will be slightly different, with a distinct but traditional feel.
22-Fret Rosewood and Ebony Fingerboard
Ebony and rosewood has always graced the fingerboards of the world’s finest stringed instruments, including many of today’s Gibsons. The fingerboards on the Les Paul Juniors are constructed from the highest grade ebony and rosewood on the planet, and are personally inspected and qualified by Gibson’s team of skilled wood experts before it enters the factories. The resilience of these dense and durable woods make the fingerboards extremely balanced and stable, giving each chord and note unparalleled clarity and bite. The 12-inch radius of the fingerboard provides smooth note bending capabilities and eliminates “dead” or “choked out” notes, common occurrences on fingerboards with lesser radiuses. Rosewood fingerboards are available with the Satin Vintage Burst and Satin Cherry finishes, and ebony fingerboards are available with the Satin White finish.
Nickel and Silver Alloy Fret Wire
The fret wire on the Gibson models is a combination nickel and silver alloy (approximately 80 percent nickel and 20 percent silver) specifically designed for long life and superior wear. Gibson’s traditional “medium/jumbo” fret wire is first shaped by hand, then cut to an exact 12-inch radius. After hand pressing it into the fingerboard, a machine press finishes the job to eliminate the gap between the bottom of the fret wire and the fingerboard.
Classic Dot Inlays
The classic dot inlay is one of the most distinguishable features of many traditional Gibson models, including the Les Paul Junior. A figured, swirl acrylic gives these inlays that classic “pearl” look. They are inserted into the fingerboard using a process that eliminates gaps and doesn’t require the use of fillers.
One-piece, Solid Mahogany Body and Set-Neck Construction
Two of the most central features of the Les Paul Junior are its one-piece, solid mahogany body, and its set-neck construction, or glued neck joint. Like the majority of Gibson’s classic guitars, the neck of the Les Paul Junior is set into the body’s neck cavity using glue, which ensures a “wood-to-wood” contact, no air space in the neck cavity, and maximum contact between the neck and the body, thus allowing the neck and body to function as a single unit. The result? Better tone, better sustain, and no loose or misaligned necks. As with all Gibson woods, the regimen involved in selecting the right body wood and the formula to dry it out is extensive. First, the wood is personally inspected and qualified by Gibson’s team of skilled wood experts before it enters the Gibson factories. These onsite inspectors also ensure that the plain maple comes from corporations adhering to the forest-saving standards of the Rainforest Alliance, of which Gibson is a proud member and sponsor. Inside the Gibson factories, humidity is maintained at 45 percent, and the temperature at 70 degrees. This ensures all woods are dried to a level of “equilibrium,” where the moisture content does not change during the manufacturing process. This guarantees tight-fitting joints and no expansion, and controls the shrinkage and warping of the woods, in addition to reducing the weight. It also improves the woods’ machinability and finishing properties, and adherence to glue. Consistent moisture content means that every Les Paul Junior will respond evenly to temperature and humidity changes long after it leaves the factory.
Gibson’s Legendary P-90 Pickup
The legendary P-90 – introduced in the early 1950s – is Gibson’s truly legendary singlecoil pickup, and offers the soulful, classic tone that only a P-90 can. Delivering more warmth than a standard singlecoil pickup, with higher output and sweet treble response, the P-90 continues to be one of the most popular pickups today, offering a distinct and powerful tone that remains unmatched in the face of relentless impersonation.
Vintage-style Wraparound Bridge/Tailpiece
A classic piece of hardware, the wraparound bridge/tailpiece on the Les Paul Junior offers a simplicity and functionality that is hard to match. It provides a firm seating for the strings, allowing the player to adjust intonation and string height as needed, and yielding an incredible union between the strings and body, resulting in excellent tone and sustain.
Applying a satin nitrocellulose finish to any Gibson guitar—including the Les Paul Junior—is one of the most labor-intensive elements of the guitar-making process. A properly applied nitro finish requires extensive man hours, several evenly applied coats, and an exorbitant amount of drying time. But this fact has never swayed Gibson into changing this time-tested method, employed ever since the first guitar was swathed with lacquer back in 1894. Why? For starters, a nitro finish dries to a much thinner coat than a polyurethane finish, which means there is less interference with the natural vibration of the instrument, allowing for a purer tone. A nitro finish is also a softer finish, which makes it easily repairable. You can touch up a scratch or ding on a nitro finish, but you can’t do the same on a poly finish. In addition, a nitro finish is very porous in nature, and actually gets thinner over time. It does not “seal” wood in an airtight shell—as a poly finish does—and allows the wood to breathe and age properly.