“It’s beaten, and it’s a Frankenstein. It’s got a lot of modifications and changed parts…This guitar is a recreation of that idea”: Gibson launches the Charlie Starr Les Paul Junior

Gibson Charlie Starr Les Paul Junior
(Image credit: Gibson)

Gibson has officially launched the Charlie Starr Les Paul Junior, the new signature guitar for the Blackberry Smoke frontman that’s based on his heavily modified 1956 Junior.

The news broke last week that Starr’s Les Paul Junior was entering the Gibson catalog, with the choice of two finishes, Ebony and Dark Walnut, when he appeared on the Gibson Gear Guide with host Dinesh Lekhraj, and explained how the original was a holy grail purchase that he made soon after arriving in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The Junior had belonged to Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, one of his favourite players, and had been in the possession of a slew of pro players before Starr could get his hands on it. 

“He pulled that guitar off the wall and it was love at first feel, to quote Bon Scott,” Starr said.

That ’56 is beat up in all kinds of ways. It has lived a life. But these new Starr signature Juniors are box-fresh, with satin nitro finishes, and it’s your job to give one some scars of its own.

The news that the Charlie Starr Les Paul Junior had officially dropped came via the Gibson Gazette, with the new single-cut electric guitar now available to order direct from Gibson and from dealers. But you’d best be quick. These are limited to just 250 units in each finish option. 

That ordinarily means that we’re talking Custom Shop, perhaps Murphy Lab prices, but at $1,999, these are more accessibly priced. You would expect that for a Junior, a model that was launched back in the day to offer a more affordable instrument. But this is no ordinary Junior.

“It’s beaten, and it’s a Frankenstein,” said Starr. “It’s got a lot of modifications and changed parts, since it was born. But I think most of that stuff happened in the ‘70s. This guitar is a recreation of that idea, with the compensated saddle bridge, speed knobs, Grovers, and some black paint.”

The bridge has been swapped out, too, and for sticklers for intonation, that’s good news, with Starr’s signature model equipped with an adjustable wraparound bridge with locking studs. 

But like those Juniors that came before it, all these modifications can’t change the guitar’s character – simplicity is appeal. There’s just one pickup, a custom-wound P-90 at the bridge position, given a few extra turns to it runs hotter. 

There are speed knob controls for volume and tone, 22 medium-jumbo frets on a 12” radius rosewood fingerboard, a solid mahogany body complemented by a glued-in mahogany neck with a profile that has been digitally scanned to feel the exact same as Starr’s original ’56.

He pulled that guitar off the wall and it was love at first feel

Charlie Starr

Other signature features include Starr’s signature on the truss rod cover, and you’ll find a “Hey y’all” sticker and a signature ceramic guitar slide in the case – which come to mention it is a historic ‘gator skin’ hardshell guitar case. Pretty cool. Other features, well, these won’t come as a surprise for fans of Gibson guitars. 

This has a 24.75” scale. Under the hood, that control circuit has been wired up by hand and features orange drop capacitors. Black dog-ear pickup covers are in place for both guitars, and we have to say those amber speed knobs really complement the finishes nicely.

The Charlie Starr Les Paul Junior is available now, priced $1,999. See Gibson for more details, and be sure to bookmark the Gibson Gazette for more news and features from the Nashville-based guitar brand.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.