For almost 20 years, Jimmy Miller has thrilled old-time rock ‘n’ roll fans as bassist and vocalist for Rocky and the Rollers. In addition to their own tours, including their popular Doo Wop N’ Rock show, the Florida rockers are well known as the touring band for ex-Sha Na Na singer Jon “Bowzer” Bauman’s Bowzer’s Rock And Roll Party shows, backing such legends as Gary U.S. Bonds, Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry, Lesley Gore, Little Anthony and The Imperials, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits.
Although Miller is well versed in a wide variety of musical genres and can double on multiple instruments, he’s best known as a master of rock ‘n’ roll bass. Like countless bass players, the Maine native is a long-time devotee of Ampeg bass amplifiers. Recently, he has also become a big fan of Ampeg’s new Classic analog bass preamp and Scrambler bass overdrive pedals.
“I’ve been playing through Ampeg amps since 1978, mostly an SVT but I also love the B-15 and the Portaflex PF-50T,” begins Miller. “I’ve gotten some great results with Ampeg’s SCR-DI pedal, too; it’s like a one-box Swiss Army DI with overdrive and headphone/music player jacks—very nice. I think it was a great call to split the SCR-DI in half to create these new pedals. They are even better in some ways.”
For example, Miller wanted one feature the SCR-DI didn’t offer. “I wanted a bass boost corresponding to how much drive you need, like a real tube amp,” he recalls. “The dedicated Scrambler pedal gives you a bit more bass boost as you crank up the drive, just like a tube circuit.”
In the past, Miller laughed at the idea of a “transparent” overdrive. No longer. “Put the Scrambler’s treble knob on noon, and I am very hard-pressed to detect any fundamental change in EQ, no matter how hard I crank the drive knob,” he admits. “The drive knob has a decent amount of room for tweaking on the fly before you have to worry about your volume getting too inconsistent, and every position on the drive knob is highly usable, with very consistent bass response compared to my clean sound. And it works great on my EMG-loaded active basses, without moving the guitar’s internal jumper.”
Miller has seemingly found true love with his new Scrambler. “The Scrambler pedal may very well be the best sounding bass overdrive I’ve ever owned, and there’s no question it’s the easiest to operate. The only way I think I could get a bad sound out of it is if I took a hammer to the printed circuit board. In my honest opinion, the new Scrambler is absolutely legendary.”
For Miller, using the Classic analog bass preamp was almost like visiting with an old friend, in that the Classic delivers a wide variety of authentic Ampeg tones. “Plugging into the Classic pedal was very familiar, since I’ve been using Ampeg amps with that same EQ for years,” he confirms. “It’s a great little circuit that makes copping my favorite Ampeg clean sounds simple and quick, which is fantastic for gigs when I don’t want to use a big amp. It even works well for balancing out tones and volumes on my upright bass. I’d been using a 6-band EQ for that but the Classic’s three knobs make copping sounds simpler, and unlike the 6-band EQ, the Classic has a volume control.”
In nearly 40 years of playing bass through Ampeg amplifiers, Miller has performed with countless stars. He is deeply aware that, in a manner of speaking, so has Ampeg. “I’m so glad my favorite amp company has come up with these new pedals,” he offers. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment in such a tiny package.”