Originally known as the New Yardbirds, often regarded as the progenitor of hard rock and heavy metal, Led Zeppelin was an English band that rocked the world from 1968 to 1980. Their unique style of music is derived and influenced by different elements of music genres including blues and folk music.
To date, they are one of the best-selling music artists of all time with their total sales of records estimated to be over 300 million units worldwide. To compare them to other greats, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 with a description including a statement that they were as influential in the 1970s as the Beatles in the 1960s.
Pounding away the drums for the band is none other than the legendary John Bonham. His demonstration of drumming skills throughout his career has earned him worldwide appreciation and respect especially for his power, speed, distinctive sound, and feel for groove. With this, he is largely known as one of the most influential and greatest drummers in the history of music.
Born into a family of 3 siblings on 31 May 1948 in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, Bonham picked up his interest in drumming at the young age of 5. This is where he made his own makeshift kit made up of coffee tins and containers and he would try to imitate his idols such as Buddy Rich, Art Blakely, Gene Krupa, and Max Roach. His mother acknowledged his interest and got him a snare drum when he was 10. Soon after, at 15 years old, his father got Bonham his first drum kit, a Premier Percussion set.
Bonham never attended any formal drum lessons. He mostly learned through trial and error on his own and by getting advice from other drummers in Redditch. He attended Lodge Farm Secondary Modern School and this is where he joined his first two bands, Blue Star Trio and Gerry Levene & the Avengers.
When he was done with school, he went into the trade business with his dad as an apprentice carpenter. However, he didn’t let go of the drums. He would still practice almost every night and perform with local bands.
In 1964, he joined his first semi-professional band known as Terry Webb and the Spiders. This was also around the time he met his future wife, Pat Phillps. Other bands he would play with include The Nicky James Movement and The Senators.
In 1996, he decided to take drumming more seriously and did it full time as he joined his next band, A Way of Life which unfortunately, didn’t last very long. Soon after, he moved into another group with lead singer Robert Plant, called the Crawling King Snakes.
It was a messy time for Bonham and he went back into A Way of Life whilst keeping in touch with Plant. Plant eventually formed Band of Joy and named Bonham his drummer. In 1968, they connected with Tim Rose and soon after, Bonham went on to join Rose’s band.
One day in 1968, as Bonham was persevering through his drumming career, another band known as the Yardbirds met its dissolution and their guitarist, Jimmy Page went on to form a new band named New Yardbirds with Plant, who in turn suggested Bonham. When Page saw Bonham’s performance with Tim Rose, he was immediately convinced that Bonham was the man they needed and gave him an offer. Despite being initially reluctant, Bonham took the offer and from there, everything only went uphill.
That same year, the band went on their first tour in the UK. It wasn’t even a month before they renamed themselves as Led Zeppelin. Within their first year together, they completed four US and four UK concert tours whilst releasing two albums, namely “Led Zeppelin” and “Led Zeppelin II”, both of which achieved commercial success and hit top charts in the UK and US.
Bonham was a true enthusiast when it came to drumming. The song titled “Pat’s Delight” which was later renamed to “Moby Dick”, was Bonham’s first drum solo and it often lasted for up to 20 minutes. In certain sections, he would dive deep into trance and would even use his bare hands to bang on the drums in efforts to replicate the sounds of phased hand drums. Another time, he and Page were working on a demo for “Communication Breakdown”, but Page decided to scratch that because Bonham was over-doing the use of a double bass drum.
The band continued to experience tremendous success over the years releasing 8 studio albums, 4 live albums, and 16 singles. Unfortunately in the year 1980, the band faced a terrible misfortune as Bonham passed away. Since Bonham was such an integral player in the band’s sound, the band decided that they were not able to continue together without him. With that, Led Zeppelin met its dissolution. To date, Bonham is still regularly voted as the greatest and most influential rock drummer of all time.
Bonham was known to exclusively endorse and play on Ludwig drums throughout the duration of his career in Led Zeppelin. It all started during his first tour in the US after he met with Carmine Appice who introduced Bonham to the brand.
Note that the cymbals below aren't from the year 2002, Paiste 2002 started getting made in 1971.
Aside from music videos, Bonham has appeared on television several times as an actor and performer. He appeared and acted in movies such as:
During his time, Bonham along with Led Zeppelin were nominated in the Grammy awards for Best New Artist in 1970. They also won the Ivor Novello Awards in 1977.
Despite the band’s dissolution in 1980 and after all this time, Bonham’s contribution to the world of music is still recognised and praised for as he is still being named for awards and accolades. In 2005, he was ranked number 1 on Classic Rock’s 2005 list of 50 Greatest Drummers in Rock.
In 2007 and 2008, both Stylus magazine and Gigwise.com also rated Bonham number one in their list of 50 great rock drummers.
John Bonham started playing the drums in 1953 at the age of 5.
John Bonham died on 25 September 1980 at the age of 32.
John Bonham played the drums for 27 years.
Throughout his career John Bonham has used Premier, Ludwig, Paiste, Promuco, Hickory, Remo and Natal.
He is known for playing Rock, Hard Rock, Blues Rock and Folk Rock.
Counting all his Albums, John Bonham has been featured on at least 563 recordings.
AboutDrumming.com is run by a group of drum teachers, drumming professionals and hobbyists. We love all things drums, and when not drumming we spend our time adding more awesome content to this website!
Affiliate Disclosure: When relevant AboutDrumming.com uses affiliate links (at no additional cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.