This Day in Music 31.05.2016
John Henry Bonham – also known as “Bonzo” – was born in the non-metropolitan county of Worcestershire, England on May 31, 1948.
Bonham’s interest in percussion began at a very early stage of his life. With five years old, he was already imitating his idols Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich by playing on drum sets he made out of containers and coffee tins. Seeing this growing passion of his, his mother gave John his first snare drum when he was ten years old. It didn’t take long for him to get his hands on a proper drum set. So around 1962, a fifteen years old John Bonham was given a Premier drum set by his father. John Bonham learned how to play drums all by himself.
Between 1962 and 1963, John played with the Blue Star Trio and with Gerry Levene & The Avengers. In 1964 he joined his first semi-professional band, Terry Webb and The Spiders.
After 1964, Bonzo joined many other bands to pursue his drumming interests. Bands like The Nicky James Movement, The Blue Star trio, the Senators, etc. are some of the bands that John was associated with. The single released by the Senators, i.e., “She’s a Mod” did enjoy a mainstream success for a while.
After two years or so, Bonzo then joined a band called A Way of Life with the goal of performing as a full time drummer. However, A Way of Life didn’t last long and disbanded, which made John find other ways in order to earn a regular income. This made him join the blues group called Crawling King Snakes, which is where he met the singer Robert Plant. Then there the era of Led Zeppelin which truly turned John’s life around. This happened when Jimmy Page wanted to start off his own band and he approached Robert Plant for the vocals who in turn referred John Bonham for the part of the drummer. Once Jimmy Page and Peter Grant saw Bonham perform for Tim Rose at Hampstead, they knew in an instant that John Bonham was perfect for the role of the drummer for Led Zeppelin.
John Bonham was an avid collector of sports cars as well as motorcycles. Apart from being an integral part of the band Led Zeppelin, John also continued working with A Way of Life and he also sessioned for Lulu for the song 'Everybody’s Got to Clap'.
On the 25th of September of 1980, this legendary band came to a screeching halt. Led Zeppelin was getting prepared for an upcoming United States tour at the time. John Bonham drank heavily after and before he arrived at the rehearsals on the 24th of September. Late in the evening, Led Zeppelin retired to Jimmy Page’s house. After midnight, John Bonham fell asleep and was taken to bed and placed on his side. Later in the afternoon, Benji LeFevre (Led Zeppelin’s tour manager) and John Paul Jones found John Bonham dead in his bed, due to asphyxiation caused by inhaling his own vomiting. John Bonham was 32 years old at the time of his untimely death.
After this tragic incident, Led Zeppelin disbanded. A press statement was issued on the 4th day of December of 1980, where they disclosed their decision:
“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.” – Led Zeppelin.
John was described as one of "the greatest rock 'n' roll drummers in history”.