In 2000 Billie Joe Armstrong purchased a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior that he refers to as ‘Floyd,’ and he's been hooked ever since. In an interview with Gibson.com in 2006, Billie Joe talked about his collection of vintage Les Paul Juniors: “I've got about 20 Les Paul Juniors from the ‘50s. I got anything from Specials to the regular single dog-ear pickup to the TV-colored, and sunburst,” said Armstrong. “I pretty much got all of the ones that they made basically from 1955 to 1959-1960.”
Aside from all the LP Juniors, Armstrong has quite a few Gibson classics in his collection including the ES-135, ES-335, SG, and a '59 Les Paul Special. In 2005, Armstrong told Gibson.com: “ 'Floyd' [’56 Sunburst Les Paul Junior.] is still my favorite, but I recently bought a ‘56 Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty' and it’s a close second. I have about thirty vintage Les Pauls now and I love them all.”
Armstrong also has a signature Gibson acoustic guitar, the Billie Joe Armstrong J-180, based on the guitar Billie Joe used during encores on the 21st Century Breakdown tour.
The Gibson Les Paul Junior came about as a less expensive alternative to the Gibson Les Paul and was marketed toward students. It is strange to think that when the Les Paul Junior was released in 1954 it cost a mere $99. The lightweight body and fast neck make the guitar ideal for punk rock where the focus is on playing fast and dirty power chords. Guitarists like Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls and Mick Jones of The Clash are some of the more famous musicians to favor the Les Paul Junior. However, it is not only punk rockers that have taken a liking to the Les Paul Junior over the years. Leslie West of Mountain also used the LP Junior as his main guitar. West said his first encounter with the LP Junior was when his old Mountain bandmate Felix Pappalardi gave him a guitar he was having repaired. “I saw it only had one pickup and some knobs, very bare. It reminded me of a tree with a microphone. It stuck.” Billie Joe sort of echoed this sentiment when he talked to Gibson.com in 2006 about the pickups on his signature Les Paul Junior model “You just get to hear what the guitar sounds like.”
The Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior came out in 2006. It is closely based on Billie Joe's own ‘Floyd’ guitar. “This guitar is pretty much like Floyd, apart from the neck,” Armstrong told Gibson.com. “This is more of a '60s neck so it's easier to play and get your hands around, whereas the '50s necks were a bit thicker.”
The guitar has a new version of the P-90 pickup, dubbed the H-90. This pickup features two single coils stacked on top of each other to produce the noise canceling effect of a humbucker while still retaining the tone and characteristics of the classic P-90. Armstrong explained to Gibson.com that the tone of the Les Paul Junior was what initially caught his attention. “For years I have been looking for a guitar sound that could live up to the guitar tone I hear in my head. The first time I played my 1956 Les Paul Junior guitar, it matched that tone perfectly. Les Paul Junior guitars can reproduce the punch of power chords and the power of big open chords with perfect string definition.”
As Green Day are getting ready to release their new album trilogy, Gibson is releasing a new Billie Joe Armstrong signature guitar, the Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior Double Cut. Just like his original signature LP Junior, the double cut features the H-90 pickup. The guitar comes in a classic “TV Yellow” finish with a silver Billie Joe Armstrong “Adeline skull” logo on the black pickguard and a premium signature gig bag featuring the Shockman exterior logo and a ‘leopard skin’ interior. The double cutaway, along with the ‘60s style slim neck, is perfect for those hard-to-reach notes high up on the neck when you're soloing. Check out the clip below of Green Day performing “Oh Love” at the Reading Festival on August 25.
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Check out the new Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior Double Cut.