Johnny Thunders' Guitar
by Lantz L'amour

"Originally, what Thunders played was a '55 Gibson 'Les Paul TV' (special), which included a single cutaway limed-TV mahogany body finish, a rosewood fretboard and a set-in neck. They're were a total of 5 made in '54 as prototypes, and introduced with 230 in '55, 511 were made in '56, 552 were made in '57, 429 were made in '58, 543 were made in '59, and 419 were made in '60. Quite rare. He also played a double cutaway Gibson 'Les Paul Jr.' Also, with the limed mahogany TV finish, along with a rosewood fretboard, and a set in neck. These were also manufactured and shipped as a '54 first year introduction at 823 pieces, 2,839 were made in '55, 3,129 were made in '56, 2,959 were made in '57, 2,408 were made in '58, 4,364 were made in '59, and 2,513 were made in '60. Not so rare. The Gibson 'Les Paul Jr.' to this day remains as the most common and most highly manufactured Gibson in the 1950's. Oddly, enough the Les Paul Standard was introduced in 1952 and did quite poorly (you wouldn't think of it looking in a music store today, or on the MTV, huh?). Well, not 'poorly', but not great. They were introduced with 1,716 pieces, and only peaked in the '50s in '53 at 2,245 pieces. Just fascinating, huh?"

"I got most of the information from a great book entitled "American Guitars: An Illustrated History" by Tom Wheeler. Great stuff. It's highly recommended if you're into guitars as much as I am. It'd cost you roughly $20, but it's worth it. It's big, lot of facts, and a lot of pictures, with a 120 center spread in full color. The other stuff, I got from just being a big Thunders fan. A friend of mine has numerous live photos from '73 - '74, from 5 shows that he took from their 1st three Midwestern tours. Four out of 5 shows Thunders was playing the same Les Paul Special with the TV and single cutaway. The 5th show was the latest and he was playing a Jr. with a double cutaway, actually switching different guitars 3 times. So, my assumption is that he played specials nearly exclusively until soon after their 2nd album came out. If you look at the "Too Much Too Soon" I believe he's playing a special. And, if you take a glimpse of stuff past that like live photos or the cover of "Red Patent Leather" he holds a different Jr. every time, hardly the same one twice, noticed by the sticker display, of course. But, after March of '74 I've never seen him play a special. At least to my knowledge anyway."

Lantz L'amour

Johnny Thunders Cyber Lounge: www.thunders.ca
Managed by Chris Ridpath: chris@thunders.ca
Modified: April 7, 2001