3 THEORIES ... Where 'TV Yellow' Came From

(See our current TV Yellow guitars!)

TV Yellow is one of the most distinctive guitar finishes around. Ask any guitar player about TV Yellow and odds are they'll have something good to say about it. But ask them where the name came from and you'll probably get a lot of quizzical looks--and maybe a few different theories. Below are a few we found online. None proven, but all entertaining.

gibson les paul junior special double cutaway tv yellow finish


Story One...
In the early days of television, some TV sets came in a yellowish color called “Limed Mahogany.” The Les Paul TV model was also described as having a Limed Mahogany finish. In the guitar world “Limed Mahogany” eventually became referred to as “TV Yellow."

gibson les paul studio tv yellow finish

Story Two...
Again, in the early days of television, using pure white props on a live TV shoot would produce video artifacts. Legendary inventor Les Paul suggested a wheat-colored guitar finish. It would appear white on TV but wouldn’t overwhelm the cameras. The finish was called TV White. The color was later modified by adding yellow--thus TV Yellow.
Story Three...
In this version, the television myth above was propagated by Gibson because they were reluctant to reveal the true origin of the name--that "TV" stood for "Telecaster Version." The Gibson marketing team supposedly hoped that a pale guitar with a dark pickguard would be mistaken for a Telecaster by fans unschooled in various guitar models and result in extra sales for Gibson at the expense of Fender. The "TV Yellow" designation was intended to be a Gibson internal joke, but the moniker was published in ads before upper management caught the slip.

Got your own idea about where "TV Yellow" came from? Comment below on this story. We'd love to hear it!

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  • Thanks for the interesting comments. Keep em coming!

    • Wade
  • To me, the problem with the usual ‘looks better on TV’ explanation is the simple fact that this was a student guitar. Not a model intended to be played by professionals on television. If that was the intention they would’ve used it on their more premium guitars.
    To me, logic dictates that the internal joke referring to telecasters, ie, using that colour scheme on a basic slab-body electric guitar, is the most likely explanation.

    • Tom Goss
  • The yellow finish appearing as white on black and white television cameras is the most plausible. Having done some singing on tv as a kid, I had issues one time when I had to appear in a cast (I had broken my hand). The white plaster cast caused a huge “flare” on camera when the lights hit it just right. This was solved by a wardrobe lady who wrapped my cast in a yellowish tape that that stopped the reflective “flare” on the monitors when I moved.

    • Nigel
  • I always liked the TV yellow models and I thought it was for Effects of early Black and White TV’S

    • Bryan Hamel”!