PBS History Detectives to Trace History of Ampeg Amp Marked with James Jamerson’s Name

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.

Ampeg Amp said to be owned by 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.

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts

  1. I’ve always wanted a B-15. If that was really Jamerson’s, then it’s THE B-15. It really should be in a museum.

  2. Wow! I just got one of these yesterday, a 1966 B-15. I just got through cleaning and jamming through it and snapped a few pictures to post. I come upstairs to check FB and sure enough, this article comes up…..weird…..

  3. Oh wow…..I agree with Rob, this is a huge piece of musical history.Preserve the legacy and get it into a museum, if it turns out to have been Jamerson’s amp.Or rightfully to his son.

  4. now if they would just find the Funk Machine.

  5. There isn’t a better bass amp for studio work. But as far as it going into a museum I have to call B.S. on that. It is a tool, and needs and deserves to be used, to fulfill it’s destiny, it’s purpose. As Neil Young so elegantly stated…”this old guitar ain’t mine to keep, just mine to use for awhile”. I hope that my gear finds it’s way to someone who will use it after I am gone.

  6. Doh! Episode 3 was on tonight not 2. bummer I missed it. Have to catch it online later.

  7. I saw this episode this weekend and noted that the investigator couldn’t find a picture of J.J. with a B-15. This one landed on my FB page this morning:


    And it has WAY more knobs than the “1 or 2” described by J.J. Jr.

  8. Love this sort of thing. I have a B-15 with the name Walter Yost engraved upon it. Ive always wondered about that.

    • John Fegan

      walter yost was a US based jazz bassist actively recording and performing from the 40’s to 70’s … you have a piece of american jazz history there my friend ,)

  9. There is a studio in Dearborn, MI that still has an Ampeg that was used by James Jamerson

  10. Paul Joseph

    The B15 has an amazing tonal quality and warmth for days. They sound great in the studio, but are almost useless for live gigs. Perhaps without a drummer, you could squeeze by, but past a certain volume level, they start to sound very distorted. Add to that the fact that they are very heavy and awkward to move around.
    In the studio however, they are awesome.

  11. Mary Buck

    I loaned the one my father bought for us, and wheeled me into gigs on, as a kid, in the 60’s, to my sister in LA in the 80’s and it was hocked by a bad friend of hers. Until I read that James’s name was on it. I thought it could have been mine!!!- Mary Buck