Photo by Michael Ochs/Getty Images
It was May 31st, 1948 in Worcestershire, England when one of the greatest drummers of all time entered the world. John Bonham, aka “Bonzo, ” would go on to provide the influential heartbeat of the band that took over the 1970s (and beyond), Led Zeppelin. Unfortunately, we lost Bonham many years too soon on September 25th, 1980 when he died of an accidental pulmonary aspiration. However, he accomplished more in his short 32 years that most people do their entire lifetime. Here are a few fun facts you might not have known about the legendary drummer:
- Bonzo started teaching himself how to drum at the age of 5-years-old. He created his own makeshift kit with empty coffee containers, pots and pans, and other kitchen appliances.
- In his early days, Bonham was heavily influenced by big band jazz drummers including Gene Krupa, Joe Morello, and Buddy Rich.
- While in middle school, his principal wrote, “He’ll either be a dustman or a millionaire” on his report card.
- He first played professionally when he was 16, but a sound engineer told Bonham he was too loud and he was unable to record him. Once Zeppelin made it big, Bonham sent the engineer a gold record and a note that read “Thanks for your advice.”
- Before Led Zeppelin, Bonham played with Zeppelin’s vocalist Robert Plant in a band called The Crawling King Snakes.
- Robert Plant and Jimmy Page also considered Ginger Baker, Clem Cattini, B.J. Wilson, and Aynsley Dunbar as drummers for their new band, but eventually were completely sure of Bonham.
- Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe also offerred Bonham spots in their band. Robert Plant and manager Peter Grant won Bonzo over after sending multiple telegrams over to his favorite pub.
- Bonham used his first Led Zeppelin check to buy a Jaguar.
- Bonham befriended Vanilla Fudge’s drummer Carmine Appice who taught him how to increase his volume by utilizing double bass drum kits.
- The unsuccessful 1976 film Song of Dracula features Bonzo, along with Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, and Harry Nilsson.
Watch John Bonham “Bonzo” perform a breathtaking drum solo on Moby Dick with Led Zeppelin live in 1973 at Madison Square Garden here: