The Les Paul Jr. and the Melody Maker are two single-cut guitars made by the Gibson Corporation. Both of these guitars are similar in many ways, but have distinctive features that subtly set them apart. Originally built in the 1950s, these two examples of simplicity in the guitar world are highly sought by collectors and players alike.
The Les Paul Jr. was first released in 1954 as an alternative to the full-sized Les Paul guitar. It was an entry level Les Paul that remained in production until 1961 and was reintroduced in 2001. The Melody Maker was also introduced by Gibson in the 1950s, but was less expensive and had a slimmer body than a Les Paul Jr. It lasted until 1971 and was reintroduced into the Gibson line in 1977 as a double-cutaway model.
The Les Paul Jr. was created as a less expensive, stripped down version of the legendary Les Paul guitar. It had a simpler body and one P90 pickup, the same as the pickups in a Gibson Les Paul. It was made of mahogany as well and featured one volume and one tone knob for simplicity. The Melody Maker had a thinner body than the Les Paul Jr., also made of mahogany, and all of its components were attached to a scratch plate that was screwed to the front of the guitar in a routed area. This cut down on production costs and made the Melody Maker a cost-effective product.
The Les Paul Jr. was very well known for its tone and became very popular in the 1960s. Due to its single pickup configuration, it became a staple for many rock guitar players. Its excellent sound through high-gain amplifiers made it a very popular choice for rock bands of the time. The Melody Maker was more of an entry level guitar and had a thinner tone, but was unique due to its pickup placement and construction. The pickup used in the Melody Maker was of inferior quality than the P90 used in Les Paul guitars, but added to the singular tone of the instrument.
The Les Paul Jr. and the Melody Maker look similar and were released around the same time, but there are subtle differences between them. The scratch plate on a Melody Maker also contains the pickup and knobs, whereas the pickup and knobs on a Les Paul Junior are separate and not attached to the plate. The Melody Maker also has a thinner headstock for easy identification.
Vintage Les Paul junior guitars are very difficult to find in mint condition and early models cost upwards of $10,000. Due to their sound and components, they can often be as expensive on the vintage market as full-sized Les Pauls. A new Les Paul junior retails for about $1,200, but can be bought for about $900. Melody Makers, on the other hand, are not as popular, and since they offer inferior components, only cost a few thousand dollars for older, mint guitars. New Melody Maker guitars can be bought for less than $500, but the manufacturer's suggested retail price is $700.
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