Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Johnny Thunders’ Guitars:

Johnny achieved his unmistakable tone from playing vintage guitars very loud and clean.

The natural speaker distortion of an overdriven amplifier and his R 'n' R attitude provided more than enough beef. On top of other addictions Mr. Genzale will always be known as a late 50's Gibson Les Paul T.V. junkie, not to be confused with the more common Les Paul junior of the same period. From the middle days of the New York Dolls to the final gigs before his untimely death in 1991, it is believed that he played just two main Les Paul T.V.s.  

His first Les Paul T.V. which he first acquired while playing in the New York Dolls was stolen in late 1979 early 1980 while he was touring with Gang War. Another one was purchased towards the end of 1980 in New York to replace his original. The "T.V." denoted the color of the guitar (a beautiful honey yellow) which was assumed to show up better on black and white television sets. Both guitars were the double cutaway versions which means they were produced between mid 1958 and 1960.

It is my opinion that these guitars were 1958's due to the more squared off horns on each cutaway (the later 59's and 60's horns were a bit smaller and more rounded). The production totals of the Les Paul T.V. were 429 in 1958, 543 in 1959, and 419 in 1960. Gibson electric guitar aficionados will classify these years as the golden years of guitar making. These are now considered rare and collectible guitars. On top of it all, Johnny's guitars had the rarer tortoise shell pick-guard instead of the more common black pick-guard. His only modification he did to the guitar was to put on modern Grover tuners (good idea). It is funny to hear people talking about Johnny always playing slightly out of tune. The "primitive" bridge set up of these guitars made it impossible to intonate perfectly. The imperfect tone was more a function of the guitar and his heavy handed playing. One of Johnny's T.V. guitars hangs proudly in the New York Hard Rock Cafe. It is a miracle that it was recovered after his death.

By HeySuchandSuch


  1. Thank you.good information, I didn't but needed to know.

  2. Excellent piece...years ago i had a 1960 LP TV, that i sold, and i still can't remember of life's mistakes i guess!!!

  3. Hi Guys! Love yr blog & truly appreciate all the work you've done, from salvaging the all time best version of Heartbreakers album to just posting tons of cool, little known info.

    Unfortunately, large parts of this post seem to borrow heavily from a post about JT's guitars over on Compare for yourself by visiting

    On top of that, your post gives the impression that JT only played the Les Paul TVs, when in point of fact (and as almost any JT fan can tell you) he often used whatever guitar was close-at-hand (or perhaps not in the pawnshop). The same post has a detailed breakdown of what JT played and when he played it, so go see for yourself and consider how the different guitars effected or influenced JT's body of work.

    Finally, let me say that I certainly give you the benefit of the doubt, and sincerely hope that Ramblin' Matt fully intended to give credit where it's due and that something happened between writing the above post and the actually posting of said post. Glad to see you guys return to the world of fresh content, and look forward to much more!

  4. Hi - I wrote a comment yesterday about how this post "borrows" liberally from another article on the web, yet I don't see my comment being published.

    I certainly hope you're planning to publish it soon, since I'd hate to think that one of my long-time fave sites can't accept a little constructive input.

    Thanks & keep up the good work!

    1. Hi there and very sorry for my late reply, I wasn't full on the last years with the blog. Thanks for stopping by and I'll correct the credits. Cheers!

  5. Thanks for sharing this knowledge. Very cool. I had no idea that the LP T.V. was so-named due to its heightened presence on B&W television. Sounds like JT knew how to pick his equipment.

  6. There is also one in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - the one with an oval portrait of the Virgin Mary on the pick-guard. It was loaned/donated by his sister: "Collection of Mariann Bracken and Family."

  7. Hi that write-up on Johnnys Guitars really made my Friday! Thanks for posting.