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Famous Like Me > Composer > B > John Bonham

Profile of John Bonham on Famous Like Me

Name: John Bonham  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 31st May 1948
Place of Birth: Redditch, Worcestershire, England, UK
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
 John Bonham

John Henry (Bonzo) Bonham (May 31, 1948 - September 25, 1980), was the drummer of rock band Led Zeppelin who was widely respected in the music world as one of the best drummers of all time. His groovy feel, amazing chops, versatile skills, hard hitting power, and his passion for the instrument make him one of the most influential drummers ever. Bonham died prematurely, but his approach to hard rock and heavy metal drumming continues to be a standard by which all others are judged. His signature licks live on as played by the modern drummers of today.

Early years

Bonham was born at Redditch, Worcestershire, England. He first learned how to play drums at the age of five, making a drum kit out of containers and coffee tins, and copying the moves of his idols Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. He received his first proper drum kit at the age of fifteen, a Premier.

After leaving Wilton House public school, he worked for his father Jack Bonham in the construction industry in between drumming for bands. In 1964, Bonham joined his first band, Terry Webb and the Spiders, meeting his future wife Pat Phillips at a dance in Kidderminster. He also drummed for local Birmingham bands such as The Blue Star Trio and The Senators who released a moderately successful single "She's a Mod". Bonham enjoyed the experience and decided to take up drumming full-time. Two years later, he joined A Way of Life however the band became inactive and in desperation for a regular income, joined blues group Crawling King Snakes whose lead singer was a young Robert Plant. During this period, Bonham developed a reputation of being the loudest drummer in England, often breaking drumheads and being asked by clubs to stop playing. Asked to leave one Birmingham studio because he was too loud for the owner, he was told that there was no future for a drummer as loud as him. Ten years later, the owner received a note reading "Thanks for the career advice..."; and accompanied by a Led Zeppelin gold record. By 1967, A Way of Life asked Bonham to return to their group, during this period Plant kept in constant contact with Bonham and when he decided to form Band of Joy, Bonham was first choice for the drum throne. The band recorded a number of demos but no album. In 1968 American singer Tim Rose toured Britain and invited Band of Joy to open his concerts. When Tim Rose returned for another tour months later, Bonham was formally invited by the singer to drum for his band which gave him a regular income. Both singers Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe had also sought out Bonham for their touring bands.

Led Zeppelin

When Jimmy Page wanted to start a band in the wake of The Yardbirds break-up, His first choice for singer was Terry Reid, however Reid had already signed with Mickie Most for a solo career. Reid suggested Robert Plant, who in turn suggested Bonham, who had already drummed with Plant and knew Page from session work. Page's choice for drummer included Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson, session drummers Clem Cattini and Aynsley Dunbar. Ginger Baker was also rumoured to be on Page's list. After seeing Bonham drum for Tim Rose in Hampstead, north London, in July 1968, Page and Peter Grant were convinced to sign up Bonham.

During Led Zeppelin's first tour of the United States in December 1968, Bonham became friends with Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice who introduced him to Ludwig drums, which he then used for the rest of his career. Bonham used the longest and heaviest sticks available, which he referred to as "trees". His hard hitting style was displayed to great effect on "Immigrant Song" (Led Zeppelin III), "When the Levee Breaks" (untitled fourth album), "The Ocean" (Houses of the Holy), and "Achilles Last Stand" (Presence). He is credited by the group for thinking up the riff in "Kashmir" as well as the riff to "Out On the Tiles". On later albums, Bonham rather adeptly handled funk and Latin influenced drumming on several cuts.

His work behind the drum kit has influenced nearly every hard rock and heavy metal drummer since. Bonham's signature style was a steady rhythmic beat that swung with enormous amounts of feel, explosive fills, and a unique use of inverted rhythm often executed between his bass and snare drums. All this combined with his sheer attack made Bonham immediately recognisable to the listener. That trademark sound has become famous among fans and musicians alike and was one of the defining elements that propelled Led Zeppelin musically and commercially. Bonham to this day is held as the defining rock drummer. Many now recognise Bonham as one of the greatest drummers of all genres.

His drum solos, first "Pat's Delight" then later "Moby Dick" and finally "Over the Top", would often last for half-an-hour and regularly featured his use of bare hands to achieve different sound effects. Rap artists such as the Beastie Boys would heavily sample his drumming. Bonham is also credited (by the Dallas Times-Herald) with the first in-concert use of electronic timpani drum synthesizers (most likely made by Syndrum) during a performance of the song "Kashmir" in Dallas, Texas in 1977.

In 1974, Bonham appeared in the film Son of Dracula, playing drums in Count Downe's (Harry Nilsson) backing band. This was an Apple film made by Ringo Starr. Bonham appeared in an overcrowded drum line-up including Keith Moon and Starr on the Apple Records soundtrack album. Bonham's action sequence for the film The Song Remains the Same featured him in a drag race at Santa Pod speedway to the sound of his signature drum solo, "Moby Dick". During his time with Led Zeppelin, Bonham was also an avid collector of antique sports cars and motorcycles, which he kept on his family's farm called The Old Hyde. He even bought a pub in the nearby village of Shenstone; which shows signs of conversion work to allow him to drive his bikes or cars right behind the bar. This was not, however, the pub featured in the film The Song Remains The Same.

As well as recording with Led Zeppelin, Bonham also found time to session with other artists. In 1970, Bonham drummed for Screaming Lord Sutch on his album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends. Bonham also drummed for his Birmingham friend, Roy Wood, on the 1979 Wizzard album, On the Road Again. Then for Wings on their Back to the Egg Rockestra project.

Bonham's death

Bonham disliked both being away from his home and family for long periods and flying. This led him to drink heavily to work off his nerves. On September 24, 1980, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King from The Old Hyde hotel to be at rehearsals at Bray Studios for the upcoming tour of the United States, the band's first since 1977. During the journey Bonham had downed four quadruple vodkas, and continued to drink at the studio. A halt was called to the rehearsals late in the evening and the band retired to Page's house in Windsor. After midnight, Bonham had fallen asleep and was taken to bed on his side. Tour manager Benji LeFevre found him dead the next morning. The cause of death was asphyxiation caused by choking on his own vomit. A subsequent coroner inquest found no other drugs in Bonham's body. John Bonham was buried on October 10, 1980 at Rushock parish churchyard, near The Old Hyde farm.

Rumours quickly abound that Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Simon Kirke, Bev Bevan or B.P. Fallon would join the group as his replacement but Bonham's passing has been the single biggest factor in why Led Zeppelin has never successfully reformed. His influence in the band's sound was unique.

Bonham's young sister, Debbie Bonham, is a singer. His younger brother, Mick Bonham (died 2000), was a disc jockey and respected photographer. John Bonham's son, Jason Bonham (born 1966), also became a rock drummer. Bonham's daughter, Zoe Bonham, appears regularly at Led Zeppelin conventions and awards. In 2005, they appeared at the Grammy Awards to collect their father's Lifetime Achievement award.


  • Son of Dracula (1974)
  • The Song Remains the Same (1976)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article John Bonham