John Henry Bonham was born on May 31st 1948 in Redditch, Worcestershire, England. John was a natural, and started at the age of 5 banging on tin cans. His mother Joan gave him a snare drum when he was 10 and his father Jack got him a Premier Percussion drum set when he was 15. Bonham never had a formal drum lesson, he learned from other local drummers and from some of his idols such as Max Roach, Gene Krupa, and Buddy Rich. Bonham left school in 1964 and went to work with his father doing carpentry work. On the side John was pursuing his dream as a drummer and after playing in some local bands since school, he finally landed a semi pro band called Terry Webb and the Spiders.
Bonham decided that he wanted to make a living drumming and relied solely. He went through a number of bands such as Nicky James Movement and The Senators, A Way of Life, and Crawling King Snakes where he met lead singer Robert Plant. Plant would eventually hook up with Jimmy Paige after the breakup of the Yardbirds and form the New Yardbirds. Plant was hired and after Paige saw Bonham perform in London, he was convinced that the drummer Plant had suggested to him was the one he was looking for. Bonham who at the time also had offers form Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe, so it wasn’t an instant decision but in the end he chose Paige and Plant and they dropped the name New Yardbirds and Led Zepplin was born.
Bonham was influenced by drummer Carmine Appice to try Ludwig drums, and he liked them so much that that was what he used the rest of his career. Bonham hit the drum with the longest and heaviest sticks which probably enhanced the sound that he created. In 1980 Bonham had started off the 24th day in September with a stop for breakfast in which he consumed 16 shots of Vodka, through out the day it was determined he had at least 40 shots of vodka. He went to sleep and chocked to death on his own vomit. Zeppelin’s tour manager and the 4th member of the band John Paul Jones found him the next day. Bonham left behind a legacy that perhaps has never been touched.
He is considered one of the greatest if not the greatest drummers of all time. The bond between Paige, Plant, Jones, and Bonham was so strong that they disbanded one of the greatest rock bands of all time, with no thoughts of replacing him and carrying on. Led Zeppelin is still one of the greatest bands of all time today and the band itself has such a unique and pure sound that never seems to get played out. Bonham was destined for this band and it was a sad day when he departed this world. He has been greatly missed and had he not passed that dreadful day in 1980, Led Zeppelin would still be playing today, tours, fairs, or Super Bowls, they would still be the band booking shows around the world.
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