In 2009, Los Angeles bassist Steve Fishman discovered a vintage Ampeg amp that may just be the find of the century. Stenciled on the back of the amp was the name of the Motown bass legend, James Jamerson.
Fishman, who has recorded with Paul McCartney, decided to try to get this story investigated, to see if this amp is indeed legit. So he called on the folks behind the PBS show “History Detectives” to lend a hand.
The episode, filmed in February, debuts this Tuesday (July 24th). Fishman and scholar Eduardo Pagan visited Detroit to track the amp’s origins. Fishman is quite confident the amp is legit.
The show focuses on Pagan hauling the amp around the Detroit area to several experts, including a stop at Hewitt’s Music in Dearborn, Michigan, where where Jamerson purchased gear. Jamerson’s son, James Jamerson, Jr., is also brought in to check things out. Ultimately, Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey is the one to decide. There’s also a tour of Motown and time spent discussing Jamerson’s massive impact on music.
The hour-long show also closes with a jam session between Coffey and Jamerson Jr. PBS has already debuted this clip on their website.
Update: we followed up this story a week later with the news that PBS declared the amp legit, while James Jamerson, Jr. was quite convinced the amp didn’t belong to his late father.