An interesting recent story in the Wolverhampton Express & Star newspaper was a feature on musician Bill Bonham, who though not a household name, has certainly made a successful career for himself in the music business. Bill grew up in Walsall - West Midlands where he met and formed bands during the 1960s with some of rock music's biggest names before leaving to start a new life in America.
Bill Bonham's father was landlord of the now-legendary 'Three Men In A Boat' pub in Walsall where Bill lived with his family and developed an early interest in music. Bill's talent at playing the piano soon attracted the attention of local young rock 'n' roll fanatics who wanted him to join their bands. Noddy Holder, whose group The 'N Betweens rehearsed at the Three Men In A Boat pub, seriously considered forming a band with Bill. "Noddy Holder gave me guitar lessons and in fact we formed a band for about a week" says Bill. As it turned out, Noddy stayed with the 'N Betweens and eventually became a big star with them after they changed their name to Slade.
One of Bill Bonham's regular bands in the 1960s was called 'The Answer' with whom he toured in Europe and the Mediterranean. This band was re-named Obs-Tweedle and was fronted by a dynamic young vocalist called Robert Plant who joined after his previous group Band Of Joy had disbanded. Bill remembers; "It was a gig we played at Walsall College that Jimmy Page and his manager Peter Grant came to see and offered Robert Plant a job as singer for the New Yardbirds - who became Led Zeppelin."
As well as playing on recording sessions for successful artists such as The Hollies and Herman's Hermits, Bill Bonham played in many other bands during the 1970s including a line-up of the Ace Kefford Stand (also appearing as Kefford/Bonham) fronted by the former Move bass guitarist. Bill also played keyboards for Terry Reid as well as many others too numerous to mention.
In the mid 1970's after years of touring, Bill left the U.K. to live in America where he eventually settled down in California. He works there today as an audio-visual engineer at Disneyland - a well paid job he got because of his years of experience working on PA systems for bands. Although still not a rock star himself, Bill can certainly live that lifestyle at his large house in Los Angeles that has a swimming pool and hot tub.
These days, Bill Bonham still performs on stage as a hobby with his current band and has an interest in writing music for a Christian publishing house called Remnant Songs. According to Bill; "The USA is a very friendly place where I always found friends to help me in my endeavours. You are not thought of as a bum if you don't have a college education. People give you a chance here and if you fail, they will keep helping you." And as Bill's life proves, you don't necessarily have to become a famous rock star to be successful in the music business!
To find out more about Bill Bonham, you can visit his official web site at www.billbonham.com
Quotations from Lyndsey Hunt, Wolverhampton Express & Star.