Bonham was born in 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. His mother Joan gave him a snare drum at the age of ten, and he received his first proper drum kit at the age of fifteen, a Premier Percussion kit. The drummer - nicknamed 'Bonzo' after the dog in a British comic strip - never took any drum lessons though as a teen would knock on the doors of other drummers and ask for advice.

After leaving Wiltan House public school (some sources say he attended Bedford Modern), he worked for his father Jack Bonham in the construction industry in between drumming for different local bands. In 1964, John Bonham joined his first band, Terry Webb and the Spiders, meeting his future wife Pat Phillips at a dance in Kidderminster. He also played in other Birmingham bands such as The Nicky James Movement, 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, but the band soon became inactive. In desperation for a regular income, he joined a blues group called Crawling King Snakes whose lead singer was a young Robert Plant.

In 1967, A Way of Life asked John Bonham to return to their group, and he agreed‚ though throughout this period, Plant kept in constant contact with Bonham. When Plant decided to form Band of Joy, Bonham was first choice as drummer. 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 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.
Thanks to all those interested, and we look forward to hearing from each and every one of you!
TM
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Drum Dungeon Bio - JOHN HENRY BONHAM
John Henry "Bonzo" Bonham (May 31, 1948 - Sept. 25th 1980) was most well-known as the renowned drummer for rock legends "Led Zeppelin" Considered by many as the very first Heavy Metal band, their sound was defined and driven by the explosive drumming of John Bonham. John Henry "Bonzo" Bonham nearly didn't join the band, having to be lured away from better paying jobs in 1968, but eventually convinced to join anbd going on to help write such legendary tracks as "Stairway to Heaven" and "Kashmir". His drumming style forms much of the lexicon of rock drumming and he remains an idol to Led Zep and heavy metal fans worldwide. Bonham played as hard as he worked and his life produced many of the enduring legends of the Rock and Roll lifestyle. Few have toured with Zeppelin and have had opportunity to write first-hand about "Bonzo's" life. It is a measure of the integral role Bonham played in the band that his untimely death in 1980 led to its immediate demise. His influence, however, lives on. His unmistakable drum patterns are among the most sampled by today's musicians.

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FACTS
Here are 30 intriguing facts about "Bonzo's" short  but extraordinary life:

1. John Henry Bonham was born in Worcestershire, England on May 31, 1948.

2. He began self-teaching himself drums at age five, making a primitive drum kit out of empty coffee containers, pots and pans, and other assorted kitchenware. He got his first real snare drum at age 10, and his first full kit at age 15.

3. His early influences included big band jazz drummers like Gene Krupa, Joe Morello and Buddy Rich.

4. By 16, he was playing in his first semi-professional band. While they were recording a demo, the sound engineer told Bonham that he played too loud and was unrecordable. Bonham later sent him a gold record with a snarky note saying, “Thanks for your advice.”

5. A middle school principal once wrote on Bonham’s report card, “He’ll either be a dustmen or a millionaire.”

6. John Bonham married Pat Phillips in 1965, while still only 17 years old. A year later, they had their first child, Jason Bonham.

7. Money for the young family was extremely tight and they lived in a small, government subsidized apartment. Nonetheless, Bonham would often pretend to go work in factory while instead heading to a music store, where he performed drum demonstrations for a nominal fee.

8. He first played with Robert Plant in a group called The Crawling King Snakes, who took their name from a John Lee Hooker song.

9. Other bands he played in included the Blue Star Trio, Gerry Levene & the Avengers, Terry Webb and the Spiders, The Nicky James Movement, The Senators, and Band of Joy. Oh, and also Led Zeppelin.

10. When Page and Plant began to form Led Zeppelin after the demise of the Yardbirds, other drummers they considered included, Ginger Baker, Clem Cattini, Aynsley Dunbar, and B.J. Wilson.

11. Bonham was at the time also considering offers from Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe. Robert Plant and manager Peter Grant besieged the reluctant Bonham with dozens of telegrams sent to his favorite pub, until he finally agreed to join.

12. Led Zeppelin played their first live gig at the Mayfair Ballroom, in New Castle Upon Tyne, on October 4th, 1968.

13. In November, they signed with Atlantic Records and scored an unprecedented $200,000 advance.

14. With his first check from Led Zeppelin, Bonham bought a Jaguar.

15. Led Zeppelin embarked on the first American tour only after the Jeff Beck Group cancelled theirs and Peter Grant convinced promoters to take Zeppelin instead.

16. The band made its American debut in Denver, Colorado, on December 26, 1968.

17. They opened for acts like Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly and Country Joe and the Fish.

18. Vanilla Fudge’s drummer, Carmine Appice, befriended Bonham and introduced him to double bass drum kits incorporating larger, 26” inch Ludwig bass drums (then only used in marching bands), which enabled Bonham to increase his volume onstage.

19. The band’s first album, Led Zeppelinwas recorded in only 36 hours. Released in early 1969 to generally poor reviews, it would nonetheless remain on the Billboard charts for 73 weeks and to date has reached sales in excess of 8 million in the United States alone.

20. Their 2nd album, the imaginatively titled Led Zeppelin II, also released in 1969, has sold over 12 million copies and is widely considered as one of the most groundbreaking and influential albums of all time.

21. This album featured the instrumental track “Moby Dick.” When performing it live, Bonham would solo anywhere from 6 minutes to half an hour, sometimes tossing his sticks to the audience and beating on his drums with his hands.

22. Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971, sold 37 million copies worldwide. It features a song you might have heard called “Stairway to Heaven.”

23. Led Zeppelin’s excesses on tour were legendary. Bonham once drove a motorcycle – a gift for his 25th birthday -- through the halls of the Continental Hyatt House Hotel in Los Angeles, where the band had rented out multiple floors for their entourage (both Keith Moon and Keith Richards reportedly dropped TVs out the windows of the same hotel, which acquired the nickname “The Riot House”).

24. John Bonham suffered from stage fright, and would often have panic attacks before the band took the stage.

25. In 1972, John Bonham bought a 100 acre farm in England’s Midlands called Old Hyde. His father and younger brother helped restore it to a working Hereford cattle ranch and he would enter his calves in livestock competitions. In a bid to keep his home and work life separate, he didn’t even keep a drum kit on the property.

26. Bonham’s 2nd child, daughter Zoe, was born in July 1975.

27. In 1976, he appeared in the film Son of Dracula, along with Ringo Star, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson. The rock-n-roll vampire movie was poorly received, and remains unavailable on either VHS or DVD.

28. Jon Bonham died at the age of 32 after asphyxiating on his own vomit following a drinking binge on September 25, 1980. Rather than carry on with a new drummer, Led Zeppelin disbanded.

29. The band did play a one-off, 2007 reunion show, with Jason Bonham taking his father’s seat behind the drum kit. Reunion tour rumors have arisen every year since.

30. “The greatest rock-and-roll drummer of all-time was John Bonham.” – Roger Taylor of Queen
“He was the best.” – Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones
“To me, hands down John Bonham was the best rock drummer ever.” – Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers
“I think he will forever be the greatest drummer of all-time.” – Dave Grohl, of Foo Fighter and Nirvana.

John Bonham Equipment Drums Pre Led Zeppelin Kit (?-'68), Ludwig Super Classic Green Sparkle

Bass Drum 22"x14"

Floor Tom 16"x16"

Rack Tom 13"x9"

Supraphonic Snare 14"x5"

Led Zeppelin Kit ('68/Tour U.S.A), Ludwig Black Diamond Pearl

Bass Drum 24"x14"

Floor Tom 16"x16"

Floor Tom 18"x16"

Rack Tom 13"x9"

Snare 20's/30's COB Tube Lug


Ludwig Representation kit, Ludwig Thermo Gloss Natural Maple (1969-'70)

2 Bass Drums 26"x14" (Although one was removed as the band thought he was drowning them out!)

Tom 14"x12" (Mounted on a snare stand, and then later a Rogers Swivomatic Mount was added.)

Floor Tom 16"x16"

Floor Tom 18"x16"

14"x6.5" Chrome Supraphonic 402 Series Snare

Twin Congas Ludwig 12"

Cowbell Ludwig Gold Tone


Studio and live Kit ('70 - '73) (Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy), Ludwig Green Sparkle Bass Drum 26"x14" (Also had an extra bass drum which was kept as a spare)

Rack Tom 14"x10" on Rail Consolette mount.

Floor Tom 16"x16"

Floor Tom 18"x16"

14"x6.5" Chrome Supraphonic 402 Series Snare

Ludwig 29" Machine Timpani (1972+)

Ludwig 32" Universal Timpani (1972+)

NOTE: John Bonham was known for telling the band that the Green Sparkle kit was his favourite and Best sounding kit, and it was used on all recordings from IV onwards, excluding Presence where he used the Silver Sparkle kit.


The Song Remains The Same Kit ('73), Ludwig Amber Vistalite

Bass Drum 26"x14" (Spare bass drum kept, as these drums were reknowned for cracking)

Rack Tom 14"x10"

Floor Tom 16"x16"

Floor Tom 18"x16"

Floor Tom 20"x16"

14"x6.5" Chrome Supraphonic 402 Series Snare

Ludwig 29" Timpani

Ludwig 30" Timpani

Studio Kit ('75) Ludwig Sparkle Silver Finish

Bass Drum 26"x14"

Rack Tom 15"x12"

Floor Tom 16"x16"

Floor Tom 18"x16"

14"x6.5" Chrome Supraphonic 402 Series Snare

Ludwig 29" Timpani

Ludwig 30" Timpani

Final Touring Kit ('77-'80), Ludwig Stainless Steel

Bass Drum 26"x14"

NOTE: Tom 15"x 12" Mounted on Bass Drum with a Ludwig Rocker Tom Mount, because his usual rail mount couldn't fit a 12" deep tom on the Bass Drum. (Changed to a 14"x10" Stainless Steel tom with classic lugs for the Europe tour of 1980)

Floor Tom 16"x16"

Floor Tom 18"x16"

Floor Tom 20"x18" was used on occasion as well.

14"x6" Chrome Supraphonic 402 Series Snare (Slightly shallower than his usual 6.5 model, but probably wouldn't make that much difference in sound.)


Cymbals
John Bonham played Paiste cymbals. He used Paiste Giant Beat cymbals until 1975. The Paiste Endorsement Agreement shows he experimented with cymbals including the 602 series before changing to a complete set of what is now the 2002 series in '75, which he used for the rest of his career. His setup: During the time his setup consisted solely of giant beat cymbals

(1968 - 1971):

15" Paiste Giant Beat Hi-Hat

18" Paiste Giant Beat Crash / Ride (On Left)

20" Paiste Giant Beat Crash / Ride

24" Paiste Giant Beat Crash / Ride

38" Paiste Symphonic Gong

During the time his setup was mixed between Giant Beat and 2002 cymbals (1971 - 1975):

15" Paiste 2002 Sound Edge Hi-Hat

18" Paiste Giant Beat Crash / Ride [Switched to 18" 2002 Medium 1973](On Left)

20" Paiste 2002 Medium

24" Paiste Giant Beat Crash / Ride

38" Paiste Symphonic Gong

During the time his setup consisted solely of 2002 cymbals (1975 - 1980):

15" Paiste 2002 Sound Edge Hi-Hat

18" Paiste 2002 Medium (On Left)

18" Paiste 2002 Crash

20" Paiste 2002 Medium Ride (Formula 602)

24" Paiste 2002 Ride

Sometimes a 16" Paiste 2002 Medium under, and to the right of his 20" (as seen in Knebworth 1979)

38" Paiste Symphonic Gong

Drum Heads For his wood drums: Bonham always used Remo coated emperors (or Ludwig equivalent) on all of his batter heads, while using coated ambassadors on the resonant head, and the batter head was always tuned medium-tight, (almost jazz like) and the resonate head was always tuned way up, for a nice full, round sound. He never put pillows or other laundry in the bass drum and he only used a felt strip on the batter side from time to time. The bass drum heads were also tuned a lot higher than one would think. Some have claimed he used to make "Ritchie Rings" cut out of old drum heads for his front bass drum head, but this anomaly is simply the surrounding light producing a shadow from the hoop on the white drum head producing the ring effect (you can produce the same effect with a front bass drum head, as long as the head is coated).

Drum Heads on the vistalites: Bonham used Remo CS black dots on the batter side of the toms and the bass drum and clear ambassadors on the resonate side. The snare always had a coated emperor on the batter side and an ambassador or a diplomat on the snare side. He sometimes used a Gretsch 42-strand snare wires to fatten the snare sound.

Bass Drum Pedal
John Bonham used Ludwig Speed King Pedals (with tight spring tension) throughout his career. His trademark bass drum "triplets," most notable in Good Times, Bad Times, were done with a single bass pedal, and not a double bass pedal. Unlike some contemporary drummers, Bonham did not use a double-bass drum kit. He did once own one (it was featured in the demo "Communication Breakdown"), but removed it from his kit when the rest of the band decided it was drowning everything else out.

John Bonham Tribute Kit
In 2007, Ludwig and drum-builder Ronn Dunnett came together to make a limited edition kit in Bonham's memory. These stainless steel kits are the same as the one John Bonham himself used on the last Led Zeppelin tours in the 1970s. Additionally, Ludwig currently offers various "Zep Kits" in their Vistalite, Classic, and Accent lines, with 26" bass drums, a 13" or 14" tom mounted on a snare stand,some times he used a mounted rack from the bass drum, and 16" and 18" floor toms.


However, at the same time he was also receiving lucrative offers from established artists Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe. In the end, though, Bonham accepted Grant's offer. He later recalled, "I decided I liked their music better than Cocker's or Farlowe's."

During Led Zeppelin's first tour of the United States in December 1968, Bonham became friends with Vanilla Fudge's drummer Carmine Appice. Appice introduced him to Ludwig drums, which he then used for the rest of his career. John Bonham used the longest and heaviest sticks available, which he referred to as "trees." His hard hitting style was displayed to great effect on many Led Zeppelin songs, including "Immigrant Song" (Led Zeppelin III), "When the Levee Breaks" (Led Zeppelin IV / ), "Kashmir" (Physical Graffiti), "The Ocean" (Houses of the Holy), and "Achilles Last Stand" (Presence). The studio recording of "Misty Mountain Hop" perfectly captures his keen sense of dynamics, and this is similarly exhibited by his precise drumming on "No Quarter." On several cuts from later albums, Bonham rather adeptly handled funk and Latin-influenced drumming. Songs like "Royal Orleans" and "Fool in the Rain" are good examples, the latter displaying great skill with a New Orleans shuffle and a samba rhythm.

His famous drum solo, first entitled "Pat's Delight," later renamed "Moby Dick," would often last for half an hour and regularly featured his use of bare hands to achieve different sound effects. In Led Zeppelin concert tours after 1969, Bonham would expand his basic kit to include congas, orchestral timpani, and a symphonic gong. 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. Many modern rappers would later heavily sample his drumming and incorporate it into their compositions, such as the Beastie Boys, who sampled "Moby Dick," "The Ocean," and "When the Levee Breaks."

In 1974, John 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 soundtrack album. Bonham's action sequence for the film The Song Remains the Same featured him in a drag race at Santa Pod Raceway to the sound of his signature drum solo, "Moby Dick."
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. Bonham had already drummed with Plant, and knew Page from session work, as well as John Paul Jones. Page's choices for drummer included Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson, and session drummers Clem Cattini and Aynsley Dunbar. Ginger Baker was also rumoured to be on Page's list. However, upon seeing Bonham drum for Tim Rose in Hampstead, north London, in July 1968, Page and manager Peter Grant were instantly convinced that he was the perfect fit for the new project. Despite an intensive campaign to snare the drummer, John Bonham was initially reluctant to join the band, as he thought that the Yardbirds was a name from the past with no future. Plant sent eight telegrams to Bonham's pub, the "Three Men in a Boat", in Walsall, which were followed by forty telegrams from Grant.
Death: On September 24, 1980, John Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studios for the upcoming tour of the United States, the band's first since 1977. During the journey Bonham had asked to stop for breakfast, where he downed four quadruple vodkas (roughly sixteen shots [~2/3 imperial quart, or ~4dl of vodka]). He then continued to drink heavily when he arrived at the studio. A halt was called to the rehearsals late in the evening and the band retired to Page's house, The Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor. After midnight, Bonham had fallen asleep and was taken to bed and placed on his side. Benji LeFevre (who had replaced Richard Cole as Led Zeppelin's tour manager) and John Paul Jones found him dead the next morning. John Bonham was 32 years old.

An inquest at East Berkshire coroner's court recorded a verdict of accidental death, the cause being asphyxiation from vomit. A subsequent autopsy found no other drugs in Bonham's body. The alcoholism that had plagued the drummer since his earliest days with the band ultimately led to his death. John Bonham was cremated and on October 12, 1980 interred at Rushock Parish Church, Worcestershire. A cymbal sits in front of his headstone in his memory. His headstone reads:

"Cherished memories of a loving husband and father, John Henry Bonham Who died Sept. 25th 1980. aged 32 years. He will always be remembered in our hearts, Goodnight my Love, God Bless."

Despite media rumors that Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Barriemore Barlow, Simon Kirke, or Bev Bevan would join the group as his replacement, the remaining members decided to disband Led Zeppelin after Bonham's death. They issued a press statement on 4 December 1980 confirming that the band would not continue without its drummer. "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." It was simply signed "Led Zeppelin".

Family: John Bonham's younger sister, Deborah Bonham (born 1962), is a singer-songwriter. His younger brother, Mick Bonham (1951-2000), was a disc jockey, author and photographer. John Bonham's son, Jason Bonham (born 1966), is a rock drummer, who recently played with Led Zeppelin on their one-off reunion show in December 2007, as well as their previous reunion at the Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary show in 1988 (both Phil Collins and Tony Thompson [of Chic and The Power Station] played for Zep at their 1985 Live Aid performance). John Bonham's daughter, Zoe Bonham, is a singer-songwriter and also appears regularly at Led Zeppelin conventions and awards.
During his time with Led Zeppelin, John 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 The Plough 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. It was in fact the New Inn which is currently boarded up, the only clue to its famous past being a picture hanging close to the bar.

As well as recording with Led Zeppelin, John Bonham also found time to play on sessions for other artists. In 1969 Bonham appeared on The Family Dogg's A Way of Life, with Page and Jones. Bonham also sessioned for Screaming Lord Sutch on his album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends in 1970. He also played drums on Lulu's 1971 song "Everybody Clap," originally written by Maurice Gibb and Billy Lawrie. Later in his career, Bonham drummed for his Birmingham friend, Roy Wood, on his 1979 album, On the Road Again, and for Paul McCartney's Wings on their Back to the Egg Rockestra project.

Moby Dick Solo LIVE
RARE Interview with Bonham and Plant
Another or the RARE interviews with JHB. Very short but all we are left our departed brother
John Bonham foot technique broken down
Jason Bonham talks about his upbringing and father John Henry Bonham
Carmine Appice talks about his time with John Bonham