The Gibson Les Paul Jr. is a solid body electric guitar introduced in 1954 as an affordable, entry-level Les Paul. The marketing concept behind the Junior was quite ingenious and truly instrumental in the guitar’s rapid acceptance among the guitar buyers of the 1950s. Gibson’s strategy was to provide a single-pickup guitar without frills, constructed with the traditional high level of quality and attention to detail that characterised the company’s professional models, but at a very competitive price. This initiative was designed to bring younger players into the Gibson fold and build brand loyalty, which would pay the company back when these players matured and purchased higher-margin, professional-level Gibson instruments.
While Gibson’s margin of profit was very thin on these guitars, the Junior’s strong value credentials fuelled substantial unit sales and overall profit. By offering the Junior at a popular price that enabled beginners to access characteristic Gibson tone quality, the company quickly realised a healthy share of the nascent solid-body electric guitar market.
But the Junior was also purchased by professional players who recognised the instrument’s high quality of construction for the money and the unique tone the instrument produced. Today, these are the same purchase criteria that contribute to the Junior’s substantial appeal among vintage guitar enthusiasts.
The Juniors single pickup was purposely placed very near the bridge/tailpiece in an effort to produce a brighter tone. This design element has, in great part, helped define the aggressive voice of the guitar. My money says the folks at Gibson originally placed the pickup closer to the bridge in an effort to balance the darker tendencies of the solid-slab mahogany body dictated by the “economy status” of the Junior.
The surface mounting of a dog-ear P-90 on the body of the Les Paul Junior is another key design feature that differentiates the tone of the guitar from other P-90-equipped Gibson solid-bodies. The surface mounting of the Junior’s dog-ear pickup decreases the distance between the strings and the pickup magnets, and increases pickup output, which may well explain the dog-ear pickup’s more aggressive tone compared to soap bar P-90 pickups.
The genius inherent in the design of the Junior was not fully realised until the guitar players of the late ’60s and early ’70s recognised the incredible rock and blues tone that a Junior’s dog-ear P-90 could produce when driven through stacks of high gain amplifiers. When played at high volumes, Juniors produce a heavily distorted sound with a distinct treble emphasis and crunch that has defined the unique voice of the instrument. Leslie West made this guitar famous with his distinctive style of playing (see hereafter for a Leslie West owned Les Paul Jr;).
This guitar belonged and was used by Richie Sambora. It can he heard here during the Bon Jovi Live at Madison Square Garden 2008 concert.