There is no doubt that Green day leader Billie Joe Armstrong is a great guitarist, punk rock or not. It gets a good sound and offers solid, catchy riffs and tight, melodious leads. His most iconic guitar is “Blue”, the strongly self-adhesive Fernandes Stratocaster copy that his mother bought him for his 11th birthday. It was used on each of the band’s albums and tours until the turn of the century and is still used in concert for tracks as old as “Basket safe” Where “2000 light years away.” But the guitar he identified with in the 2000s is the simple rock’n’roll beast known as the Gibson Les Paul Junior.
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A little history
The Gibson Les Paul Junior was introduced in 1954, as a budget version of their top of the line The Paul model. Introduced in 1952, the Gibson Les Paul was one of the first commercially produced solid body electric guitars, named after the famous jazz guitarist who was one of the pioneers of solid body electric, alongside Lion mudguard. It took the basic mahogany body of the single cutaway Les Paul and excised the maple top which adds weight, sustain and note articulation. The instrument was as simple as an electric guitar you could buy – a single P-90 “dogear” pickup and volume and tone control each, plus a wrap-around stopbar bridge / tailpiece. It was aimed at students and beginners.
Eventually, Gibson gave it what was called the “TV yellow” finish, supposedly because it photographed best on black and white TV shows. The manufacturers also offered a version with two pickups, called the Les Paul Special. Then in 1958 the design changed to a double cutaway body, probably competing with WingPopular Stratocaster of. The double-cut design remained until Gibson discontinued the Junior in 1963.
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A funny thing happened in the 1970s. A new generation of rock ‘n’ roll guitarists rediscovered the Les Paul Junior. Guitars were often as cheap as $ 50 at pawn shops. When launched through the new breed of high gain tube amps such as Marshal Where Orange? They were rock’n’roll Machines! The big P-90 screwed directly into the Junior’s mahogany body cuts out all that distortion with just the right amount of clarity, plus enough midrange to pull out any sound mix. These players? We are talking about Mountain‘s Leslie West, the rolling stones‘ Keith richards and Luther grosvenor (a.k.a “Ariel Bender”) of Scary tooth/Mott the hoop. (predecessor Mott de Grosvenor, future Bad company guitarist Mick ralph, also liked Juniors.)
But no one was more identified with the Gibson Les Paul Junior than Johnny Thunder. Through the New York dolls, in the Heartbreakers and in his solo career, Thunders has brandished his model 58 double-cut television as the most musical chainsaw in the world. His immaculate raunch and choice of instrument proved to be very influential on punk guitarists forever, especially on the first wave of the UK scene. Shock‘s Mick jones, Marco pirroni of Adam and the ants, Guys days of 999 and Buzzcocks‘ Steve diggle all of them followed Thunders’ lead and at least started with a Les Paul Junior, although some might eventually have moved on to the more expensive Les Paul when record company advances allowed.
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So of course Armstrong – still a student of rock ‘n’ roll history – would eventually discover the magic inherent in a Les Paul Junior. This is the ultimate punk rock guitar – basic, stripped down, raw and it looks like fuck cool hanging from under the belt. He owns and plays several. But it always goes back to its first, “Whitey”, bought and used during the Warning sessions. This was the basis for Gibson’s first Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior signature model. It is therefore a natural prototype for Epiphone’s first Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior guitar.
So, what about this guitar?
Speaking as a punk musician myself (when I’m not scribbling articles for Alternative Press) I’ve got my hands on a few Les Paul Juniors over the years. It’s my favorite electric guitar, my favorite weapon, not least because of the Thunders heritage. Epiphone’s take on the Les Paul Junior is impressive, with Armstrong’s name scrawled on the back of the headstock or not. He is possibly the best junior I have ever played.
Pull the personalized hard case lined with leopard fur with its silkscreen printing Warning logo on the shipping carton, the quality and care taken was immediately impressive. As you open the case, a whiff of cool nitrocellulose lacquer familiar to anyone who’s bought a few high-end guitars fills the air. Considering “Whitey” is probably a mid-50s model, this is a great sign. And that glossy Classic White finish – contrasting with the black pickguard, pickup covers, and knobs – makes it look like you’re walking on stage in a white tuxedo with a black tie and shoes. You’ll watch sharp!
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This is a beautiful chunky mahogany plate in the shape of a cutaway, with a nice meaty 50s glued neck. These 50s sleeve profiles are substantial without looking like a baseball bat. It fits comfortably in your hand and allows easy fretting of the root note of barre chords with your thumb on the low E string, a favorite Jimi Hendrix tip. You won’t even need Hendrix’s long fingers to pull this one off!
The Epiphone Vintage Deluxe tuners with white pearl buttons are based on the older Kluson tuners Gibson used in the 1950s. They are perfectly usable, look decent, and hold the tuning well. Normally it is recommended to replace the tuners on a cheaper guitar with more stable machines such as Grovers. But these work well. In fact, the guitar arrived from Gibson’s headquarters in Nashville, perfectly set up and ready to play. It was even fair. It is a rarity in fresh factory or retail guitars. While strumming unplugged chords, straight out of the case, the sound fills the room. Billie Joe’s Junior is incredibly resonant, projecting like a good acoustic guitar. You can easily place a mic in front of the strings in the studio and record a false acoustic track with it.
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But this is a electric guitar. How does it sound through an amp? Raw, hoarse and scorching, like a Les Paul Junior should. There is no better sound recipe than a P-90, a solid mahogany body and a powerful tube amp. Epiphone’s PRO P-90 is hot-rolled and features adjustable pole pieces to adjust the signal from each individual string – an innovation not normally seen even in Gibson P-90s. Electronically, Epiphone has supplied the guitar with professional grade CTS potentiometers – high quality components are used throughout.
Plugged into a Blackstar HT Stage 60 three-channel, 60-watt all-tube combo amp, the Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior roared! It deforms perfectly. But the single-coil nature of the P-90, despite its inherent fatness, means that the individual notes of a chord articulate and flourish beautifully. Play a selection of New York Dolls, Heartbreakers, Sex guns, Clash and (yes) Green Day tunes, the power chords grate and crunch perfectly. The pellets screamed and cut. However, by recalling the volume control, the signal cleaned up well. Yes, this guitar can play country, jazz, blues or jangly folk rock. But make no mistake, this guitar lives to be played out of 10. It’s a punk rock machine.
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Epiphone also offers a cheaper “Player Pack” version of Billie Joe’s Junior, with a cover featuring a large screen-printed signature, a practice amp, cables, picks, a tuner and a low-end screw-on neck. guitar version. But the Epiphone Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior Deluxe is a good, high quality guitar, solidly built in China from great components and good woods.
At $ 549 retail, it puts a professional-grade instrument in the hands of practicing musicians, amateur players and beginners. It’s versatile but it’s better in raw rock and punk rock. You can feel why Armstrong, Thunders, Richards and all those other legends love the Les Paul Junior. It won’t make you play like Armstrong, but you can feel the same mojo he feels when he ties Whitey up. And you can take this guitar and connect with it, creating your own magic. You can make it your own musical weapon of choice. And maybe you can make your own piece of rock ‘n’ roll history with it.
For a chance to win an Epiphone Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior, visit Instagram and answer the question on our post to participate. The giveaway ends on December 15th.