JOHN BONHAM

JOHN BONHAM

 

Basic Background Info

 
Birth: May 31, 1948
Location: Redditch, Worcestershire, England
Band: Led Zeppelin, Band of Joy, Terry Web and the Spiders, The Nicky James Movement, The Blue Star Trio, The Senators, A Way of Life, Crawling King Snakes
Genres: Rock
Instruments: Drums
Occupation: Musician
Links:  
 
 

Biography

 
 

Born in 1948 in Worcestershire, England, John Henry Bonham started playing makeshift drums on leftover containers and coffee tins when he was five years old. "Plus there were always my mum's pots and pans." Five years later, his mom tired of surrendering her cookware and bought him a snare drum. And when he was fifteen he received his first real drum kit from his father. "It was almost prehistoric--most of the metal had rusted. Later I learned how to properly look after my drums. People who don't care for their drums really annoy me."

While he worked with various local bands, John Bonham also worked for his father in the construction business. While playing with Terry Web and the Spiders in 1964, John Bonham met his wife, Pat Philips. John Bonham continued playing in a variety of bands, including The Nicky James movement, The Blue Star Trio, The Senators, and A Way of Life. Searching for a steadier gig with a steadier income, John Bonham joined the Crawling King Snakes, a blues group led by Robert Plant. Although John left Crawling King Snakes and returned to A Way of Life in 1967, he remained in touch with Robert Plant, and when Plant decided to create Band of Joy, he invited John Bonham to join him. The following year, Band of Joy opened for American vocalist Tim Rose, and Rose eventually hired Bonham to drum in his supporting band. After his tour with Rose ended, John Bonham evolved into one of the most in-demand drummers in England at the time and kept very busy.

After inheriting the touring obligation of The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page began working to create a new band. Page asked vocalist Terry Reid to join him but Reid declined and recommended Robert Plant. Robert Plant agreed and suggested John Bonham to fill their drum seat. John Bonham was reluctant to join the group; he thought The Yardbirds name was going nowhere and he had several lucrative prospects with established artists. Eventually, John recalled, "I decided I liked their music better than [Joe] Cocker's or [Chris] Farlowe's."

The band, Page, Plant, Bonham, and John Paul Jones, originally toured as the New Yardbirds, but quickly changed their name to Led Zeppelin. Their self-titled album, released in 1969, was full of intense vocals, a wide range of guitar sounds, and a powerful rhythm section, and became a chart-topper. After the release of their second album, Led Zeppelin II, their concerts filled auditoriums and arenas and fans of all ages purchased their records.

John Bonham's drumming was integral to Led Zeppelinís success. He was the hardest-hitting, most powerful drummer playing. Bonham's raw power pounded the bass, snares, and cymbals. John Bonham used the heaviest sticks he could find  (often called tree trunks) and later started playing with his bare hands. "It wasn't so much what you could play with your hands--you got a lovely little tone out of the drums that you couldn't get with sticks. I thought it would be a good thing to do so I've been doing it ever since. You really get an absolutely true drum sound because there's no wood involved. It hurts your hands at first, but then the skin hardens. I think I can hit a drum harder with my hands than with sticks." Just as famous as his power and volume was his drum solo, better known as Moby Dick, that often lasted 30 to 45 minutes. Nonetheless, John Bonham also played with respected restraint in some of the bands folk-toned songs.

In September of 1980, while rehearsing for an upcoming American tour, John Bonham unexpectedly passed away. Coroners reported that he asphyxiated on his own vomit in his sleep, induced by heavy drinking. After John Bonham's untimely death, Led Zeppelin disbanded. "We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."

John Bonham's son Jason, an accomplished drummer in his own right, has sat in for his father during a few performances with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin. His daughter Zoe also regularly appears at Led Zeppelin awards events.
 
 

Discography

 
 
Album Year Album Name Album Band
1964 Brum Beat Various Artists
1968 The Hurdy Gurdy Man Donovan
1969 Another White Summer Led Zeppelin
1969 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
1969 Led Zeppelin/Dusty Springfield Led Zeppelin
1969 Led Zeppelin II Led Zeppelin
1969 Live at the Lyceum in London Led Zeppelin
1969 Three Week Hero P.J. Proby
1969 A Way of Life The Family Dogg
1970 Led Zeppelin III Led Zeppelin
1970 Live on Blueberry Hill Led Zeppelin
1970 Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends Screaming Lord Sutch
1970 Mudslide Led Zeppelin
1970 Ultimate Mudslide Led Zeppelin
1971 Complete BBC Session 1971 Led Zeppelin
1971 Led Zeppelin IV Led Zeppelin
1972 Ballcrusher Led Zeppelin
1972 My Brain Hurts Led Zeppelin
1973 Houses of the Holy Led Zeppelin
1973 Live in Seattle: The 1973 Tour Led Zeppelin
1973 Madison Square Garden, 1973 Led Zeppelin
1975 Earls Court Led Zeppelin
1975 Hiawatha Express Led Zeppelin
1975 On Stage in Europe 1975 Led Zeppelin
1975 Physical Graffiti Led Zeppelin
1976 Presence Led Zeppelin
1976 Song Remains the Same Led Zeppelin
1977 Destroyer Led Zeppelin
1979 Back to the Egg Wings
1979 In Through the Out Door Led Zeppelin
1979 Knebworth 1979 Led Zeppelin
1979 Live at Knebworth 1979, Pt. 1 Led Zeppelin
1979 Live at Knebworth 1979, Pt. 2 Led Zeppelin
1979 On the Road Again Roy Wood
1980 Gettin' the Led Out Led Zeppelin
1980 Last Day in Mannheim Led Zeppelin
1982 Coda Led Zeppelin
1987 1972 Interview Led Zeppelin
1987 Interview Disc Led Zeppelin
1988 Conversation Led Zeppelin
1990 Fool in the Rain Led Zeppelin
1990 Immigrant Song Led Zeppelin
1990 Led Zeppelin Remasters Led Zeppelin
1990 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
1990 Over, Under, Sideways, Down (A Comprehensive Collection) The Yardbirds
1990 Trampled Underfoot Led Zeppelin
1991 Greatest Hits Led Zeppelin
1991 Kingdom of Zep Led Zeppelin
1991 Remasters Highlights Led Zeppelin
1992 Dig Archaeology 1980-1990 The Space Negros
1992 Immigrant Song Led Zeppelin
1992 Led Zeppelin Remasters Led Zeppelin
1992 Story of the Film Led Zeppelin
1992 Troubadour: The Definitive Collection 1964-1976 Donovan
1993 Back to the Egg [Bonus Tracks] Wings
1993 Complete Studio Recordings Led Zeppelin
1993 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
1993 Mono Fury in the Slaughterhouse
1994 Pleeease! Led Zeppelin
1995 Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends/Hands of Jack the Ripper Screaming Lord Sutch
1996 Lyceum Ballroom, U.K.: 10/12/69 Led Zeppelin
1996 Smoke & Fire Smoke & Fire
1997 BBC Sessions Led Zeppelin
1998 C'mon Everybody Led Zeppelin
1998 Star Profiles Led Zeppelin
1998 Vive la France Led Zeppelin
1998 Whole Lotta Love Led Zeppelin
1999 Donovan's Greatest Hits Donovan
1999 Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1 Led Zeppelin
1999 Private Talks Led Zeppelin
2000 Divinity Led Zeppelin
2000 Latter Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 2 Led Zeppelin
2000 Rock and Roll Highway Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones/John Bonham
2001 Legend in Their Own Lifetime Led Zeppelin
2001 Making of Led Zeppelin's Zoso Led Zeppelin
2002 Fairport Unconventional Fairport Convention
2002 F·brica de Chocolate Elephant Band
2002 No Introduction Necessary Jimmy Page
2003 How the West Was Won Led Zeppelin
2003 Sixty Six to Timbuktu Robert Plant
2005 Get the Lead Out Various Artists
2005 Inside Led Zeppelin: 1968-1972 Led Zeppelin
2007 Led Zeppelin IV: Retrospectives Led Zeppelin
2007 Mothership Led Zeppelin
2007 No Slackin'! Soul Satyr
2007 Song Remains the Same Led Zeppelin
 

Noise

 
 
  • During Led Zeppelinís first American tour, Carmine Appice turned Bonham on to Ludwig drums.
  • "I swore to Pat that I'd give up drumming when we got married. But every night I'd come home and sit down at the drums and play. I'd be miserable if I didn't."
  • "Well yeah, I was always breaking drum heads when I first started playing. Later on I learned how to play louder but without hitting the drums so hard. It has all to do with the swing of the stick."
 

Instruments of Choice

 
 

Drums

Drums: Ludwig
Cymbals: Paiste
Hardware: Ludwig
Heads: Remo
Electronics:  
Percussion:  
Sticks: Ludwig
 
 

Pics & Clips