Introduced in 1954, the Les Paul Junior is perhaps the first pure classic Les Paul, created as a cheap alternative to the more richly ornamented examples in the production line. It is the definition of simplicity, a single P90 and a ton of attitude and
now it has been reinvented again with the classic single cutaway design and a slew of technical innovations for 2015. At £699 – including hardcase – it is the cheapest Gibson you can buy in 2015
Out of the case, this is a very handsome guitar. A slab, non-weight relieved mahogany body really shows off the superbly applied vintage sunburst nitro finish – its made up of several pieces but you cannot really see the join. And it is a big old lump of wood, but still hugs the body comfortably.
You get a one-piece mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard. The finishing and gluing on the neck-body join were a little messy on this example, with visible lumps on the bottom of the fretboard. Nothing here to effect playability, but it indicates a gap in Gibson’s much improved QC. The neck is described as a “slim-taper”, hmmmm, it feels like much more of a handful than that and together with the wider fretboard, this has a big effect on how it handles, but more of that later.
Frets are well laid, but could do with one last polish, there is a hint of scratchiness here that makes the playing experience a little less fluid than it could be. The nut is the same adjustable design you’ll get on all the other 2015 Gibsons and those have worked pretty well.
The headstock has the silly little LP squiggle and the tuning pegs….oh yes, the tuning pegs. Now I like the G-Force auto tuners, they work well and are a huge improvement on previous designs. It’s just that on a design as uncompromising and stripped down as the Junior, it all seems a bit unnecessary – I would have loved the option of decent old-school tuners.
At the other end you get a “Lightning” wrap around tail-piece made of pure shining Zamak. I always thought that Zamak was a type of Greek goats cheese, but I may be wrong. It looks cool and is adjustable for intonation. It’s a wraparound for gods sake, there is not a lot to go wrong.
Electrics are made up of a P90s with a tone and volume knob. The P90 is an Alnico V that is quite heavily wound, so you would expect quite a bit of grunt.
So visually it is lovely – there is the same stripped-down beauty that you’ll see in a butterscotch Tele and a sense that everything unimportant has been removed. This thing just wants to make a noise and tomorrow we’ll see what noise it makes.