While it may look like a Les Paul Junior in TV yellow finish, Gibson's own catalog and price list considered this an entirely different model that it called the "Les Paul TV Model". The Les Paul TV is defined as a single pickup, slab Mahogany body with a yellowish finish it called "Limed Mahogany" or "Limed Oak". Other than what is commonly referred to as "TV Yellow" finish, it's identical to the Les Paul Junior model. The first Les Paul TVs were made in 1954, but it didn't make it into the price list until 1956. It remained in the same single cutaway configuration until the transition to the double cutaway body style in 1958.

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Why is it called the "TV" model Les Paul and not a "TV Junior"?

How many Les Paul TV guitars made 1954-1958? 

How much did a Les Paul TV cost in the 1950s?

How to date a Les Paul? Les Paul Serial Number Lookup

Examples of Les Paul TV model guitars in the mid 1950s

How much is it worth? Find out: Sell a Gibson

Gibson Les Paul TV Model made in 1957 with yellow finish and black pickguard

Why did Gibson call this Les Paul the "TV"?

There are a few plausible theories about why Gibson called this model the TV Model, but in my opinion, the most likely theories are presented by author Robb Lawrence in The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy 1915 - 1963. Robb's section on the Les Paul TV reminds us that Les Paul (the guitarist) had a televison show from 1954 until 1958 where he and Mary would play songs from their living room. Robb speculates that the Les Paul TV was the model they introduced on TV. He also mentions the common theory that the subpar dynamic range of televisions during that period could have been a factor. These TVs would display the pale yellow color as a contrasting white, rather than accurately representing the full range of colors.

As a Gibson guitar collector, I'm always on the hunt for the nicest examples of 1950s and 1960s Gibson guitars. If you've inherited a 1956 Gibson Les Paul and are curious about how much I would value it then you can contact me here: Sell a Gibson. Or if you'd like to know more about how to find the year of a Gibson Les Paul then check out: Les Paul Serial Number Lookup.

Gibson Les Paul TV Yellow 1956 in original brown case

How many Les Paul TV guitars made 1954-1958?

Gibson kept reasonably good records of the guitars they shipped in their shipment ledger books, but they may not 100% accurately represent the actual total guitars produced. Still, we can use them to find out how many Les Paul TV model guitars were made in the 1950s. The earliest Les Paul TV guitars were mostly 3/4 sized instruments, but short and long scale guitars appear to be included in the following totals:

 1954 5
1955 230 I am looking for all 1950s
1956 511 Les Paul guitars: Sell a Gibson
1957 552
1958 429


How much did a Les Paul TV cost in the 1950s?

Gibson's price list is the best place to find out how much did a Les Paul TV model cost in the 1950s. It's interesting that while the TV Model first went into production in 1956, it didn't enter the price list until 1956. The picture below shows the price of a Les Paul TV in 1956 at $122.50 and the case for $13.50. Also of note, the listing below describes the finish as "Natural" instead of as Limed Mahogany or Limed Oak. Some of the very early TV models do actually have a natural Mahogany finish instead of the commonly called "TV Yellow" finish we see on the guitars on this page. 

Do you have one that you're interested in selling? Sell a Gibson.

Gibson Les Paul TV price in 1956

Les Paul TV Examples from the mid 1950s

1956: 614260

This is a wonderful example of the Gibson Les Paul TV made in 1956 with the early style bridge placement. The Junior, TV, and Special guitars made from 1954-1956 featured a bridge pickup placement much closer to the bridge than later guitars. Not only that, but the bushings used for the bridge were only a half inch long, and since the heavy strings used at the time forced a lot of leverage on the bushing, most of them lean forward causing problems for the bridge. Many of them will collapse in toward the pickup cavity on the treble side because the bridge is so close. This example was spared of that fate, but we replaced the short bushings with long bushings to be safe.  

Measurements: 7.6 lbs total weight which is on the heavy side for this model, but still a light weight guitar. The neck profile measure 0.91" at the first fret and 1.01" at the 12th fret.

1956 Gibson Les Paul TV guitar in case. Yellow finish with black pickguard.  Gibson Les Paul TV Model headstock from 1956 with shrunken tuner buttons.

1957:  7 7651

This 1957 Gibson Les Paul TV Model came in from the grandson of its original owner. It's a spectacular playing example with no breaks or repairs and the forward shifted pickup position. This guitar was made after Gibson shifted the pickup forward to allow for more wood in front of the treble side bridge post. They also increased the length of the stock bushing to about double the length of the previous bushings.

Measurements: 8 lbs even / 3.65kg overall weight. The neck profile measures 0.91" deep at the first fret and 0.96" deep at the 12th. The nut width measures exactly 1.70" (typical 1 11/16" wide nut). The P-90 measures 7.91k ohms resistance.

Originality: All finish, parts, and solder are original to the guitar except two solder joints. Its previous owner swapped in a complete harness one point because the volume pot had a little corrosion. I simply cleaned the potentiometer carefully then reinstalled the original harness disturbing only the hot lead to volume pot and braided wire ground to the back of the pot.
Gibson Les Paul TV model headstock with Les Paul signature and "TV Model" in silkscreen made in 1957  Gibson Les Paul TV Model guitar made in 1957 with yellow finish, black pickguard, one p-90 pickup, and single cutaway


1958: Transition to double cutaway body style

 1958 Gibson Les Paul TV Model.




John Shults

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