Drummers / Percussionists
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BIOGRAPHY

John Bonham

John Bonham, born John Henry Bonham on May 31, 1948 in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer for the legendary rock band, Led Zeppelin.

In an effort to immitate the likes of Gene Krupa, Max Roach and Buddy Rich, John began playing the "drums" at the age of five — his kit, containers and coffee tins that he put together. He received his first real drum, a snare drum, from his mother when he was just ten years old. When Bonham was fifteen his father bought him his first drum kit, a Premier Percussion drumset. That same year (1963) he joined several bands; the Blue Star Trio and Gerry Levene & The Avengers.

1964 was an pivoting year for Bonham; he left school, started working for his father as a carpenter's apprentice while continuing to play with local bands. He joined his first semi-pro band, Terry Webb and the Spiders, as well as meeting his future wife, Pat Phillips. That same year Bonham cut a single, She's a Mod, with The Nicky James Movement and The Senators. His success allowed him to make the decision to play music full-time.

In 1966, Bonham joined A Way of Life, however the band folded that same year. In quest for steady income, he joined a blues group, Crawling King Snakes, whose lead singer was Robert Plant. The next year A Way of Life regrouped and asked Bonham to once again play drums for them. He agreed, leaving Crawling King Snakes while staying in touch with Plant who went on to form his own band, Band of Joy, asking Bonham to be his drummer. Band of Joy, who was recording a lot of demos but not an actual album, was asked to open for American singer, Tim Rose, in 1968 during his Britain tour. Rose would return to Britain months later, asking Bonham to play drums for Rose's band and begin receiving a steady income.

In the summer of 1968, after the break-up of The Yardbirds, guitarist Jimmy Page quickly formed a new group in efforts to fulfill contract obligations for several concerts in Scandinavia. He recruited vocalist Robert Plant who would then suggest Bonham on drums. With the addition of bassist and keyboardist, John Paul Jones, the New Yardbirds (later to become Led Zeppelin) first performed in front of a live audience on September 7, 1968 at Gladsaxe Teen Clubs in Gladsaxe, Denmark. Later that same month the quartet would record and mix their first album in just nine days at Page's expense.

With the completion of the group's first album, the band received a cease and desist letter which stated that Page was only allowed to use the New Yardbirds moniker to complete the Scandinavian tour dates — and Led Zeppelin was born.

Viewed as one of the greatest drummers in rock history, Bonham was known for his speed and power, as well as a distinctive sound and feel.

Bonham died on September 25, 1980; he was 32.


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