Introduced in 1954 for just $99, the budget Les Paul was aimed at the high-school student wiping down tables at the local diner. Unfortunately, as the Junior became a legend in its own right, the price ballooned.
In terms of features, the Les Paul Junior never actually had that much. That was almost the point. Just as in 1954, a solid slab of mahogany forms the cutaway body, while a single piece of that same tonewood is used for the set '50s-style neck. There's a rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, a compensated chrome tailpiece/bridge that you loop your strings round, one knob for volume and one for tone.
It's simple but cool. The only sticking point is the 'Gibson' headstock logo that looks like it's been written on with one of those gold pens that people use in Christmas cards (we'd have preferred mother-of-pearl).
For some people, a Gibson Les Paul without PAF humbuckers (or their modern equivalent) is like Slash without his top hat. We have to assume such people have never heard the brittle crunch of a P-90 singlecoil growling through a valve amp, and would advise them to have a listen to Career Opportunities by The Clash or American Idiot by Green Day as soon as possible. This particular Junior sticks to the '54 configuration with a single pickup at the bridge.
As the 'official guitar' of the punk movement, the LP Junior can theoretically take a fair bit of abuse. But be warned - not long ago, there was an unfortunate incident here at MusicRadar where a Junior was dropped in transit. Despite being in a hard case and a cardboard box, the impact was sufficient to fracture the back-angled neck and leave us with some explaining to do. The moral of the story is, if you want to keep this Junior's US finish looking as gorgeous as it does now, make sure you treat it with a bit of respect.
There's not much to dislike about this LP Junior. It tunes up nicely, it's a useful weight, it balances well and it doesn't have extraneous pickup selectors, trapeze tailpieces or volume pots to get in the way. While the '50s neck is a little chubbier than the '60s profile that features on Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day's Junior, it's still very fun to play.
It's hard to describe the tone of a good P-90 - and even harder to forget it. The 'textbook' tone is brighter and thinner than a humbucker, but rougher than the snappy and crystalline tones you'll get from Fender singlecoils, and this Junior's bridge item nailed the sound we hear in our heads perfectly. Snarling through distortion, eating up punk riffs and performing well at electric blues despite the body's relative lack of sustain, there's little it can't handle.