“It was love at first feel... and it’s been with me ever since”: Gibson recreates Charlie Starr's beloved 1956 Les Paul Junior for a limited signature model

Charlie Starr holds his beloved Gibson Les Paul Junior
(Image credit: Gibson)

Gibson has teamed up with Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr for the latest addition to its signature series, a loving recreation of Starr's 1956 Les Paul Junior. 

Like the original model, the new replica features a mahogany body and a glued-in, '50s profile set neck boasting a 22-fret Indian rosewood 'board with acrylic dot inlays, plus Grover tuners and numberless Amber Speed control knobs.  

Starr's original model has been with the musician throughout a career that has produced acclaimed eight studio albums, transforming Blackberry Smoke into one of the biggest Southern rock bands in the world. 

Of the instrument, Starr says: “It's beaten and it’s Frankenstein-ed. It has a lot of modifications and changed parts. Most of that stuff happened in the '70s. This guitar [the signature model] is a recreation of that idea.” 

Speaking about how he came to own the guitar, which had a storied past even before he laid his fingers upon it, he explains: “I moved to Atlanta in the early '90s from East Alabama. Atlanta was the closest big city. 

“Soon after I moved there I started going to the mom and pop guitar stores, and I happened upon that guitar in Clark Music in Atlanta. It's no longer there but I met a lifelong friend there, and he sold me that guitar. He was like a matchmaker. I walked in and he's like ‘You play guitar? Come over here.’ 

“It belonged to Rick Richards from the Georgia Satellites, who is one of my favorite guitar players ever,” he continues. “He pulled it off the wall and it was love at first feel. We bonded, that guitar and I, pretty instantaneously.” 

Two Gibson Charlie Starr Les Paul Juniors

(Image credit: Gibson)

Unfortunately for Starr, the store was after $650 for the '50s six-string, a fee well out of reach for the then-upstart musician. 

“At that point, I was 21 years old and he might as well have said six million,” he details. “But I said ‘I tell you what, I've got some other gear and a little cash.‘ A deal was made and it's been with me ever since.” 

Tonally, its character comes from a single P-90 pickup in the bridge position. Citing influences including Keith Richards, Johnny Thunders, and Mick Ralphs, Starr says, “I think without even knowing it, I had an affinity for the P-90 thing.”

The Gibson Charlie Starr Les Paul Junior

(Image credit: Gibson)

Its spec is complete by a nickel adjustable wraparound bridge with locking studs. It comes with .010 - .046 strings and a Historic Les Paul Junior gator skin hardcase. 

Inside that case, players can find a Gibson accessory kit, a Charlie Starr signature ceramic slide to recreate his innovative playing style, and a “Hey Ya'll” sticker, in reference to the misspelled sticker found on the back of Starr's original model. 

The guitar features on the band's latest album, Be Right Here, which benefitted from a slimmed-down set up in the studio, with Starr and co. embracing the magic of little guitar amps, a lá Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. 

It is available in a faithful ebony, as well as a dark walnut finish (satin nitrocellulose lacquer), with only 250 of each being produced. 

The Charlie Starr Les Paul Junior costs $1,999. 

Head to Gibson to learn more. 

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.