Hard to believe it's now forty years since the sad passing of West Midlands drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham who died at the age of only 32 on September 25, 1980. John was best known as drummer for "Led Zeppelin", the rock group he helped form in 1968 and who went on to become one of the most famous bands in the world, selling well over 200 million records!
The Led Zeppelin line-up also included guitarist Jimmy Page, and bass guitarist/keyboardist John Paul Jones who were both well-known session musicians during the 1960s from playing on many hit records of the day. Their vocalist Robert Plant was born in West Bromwich and his first professional group was called The Listen who performed throughout the Birmingham area.
John Bonham is recognized as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) and most influential rock drummers of all time. In fact he regularly tops the list of greatest drummers in music magazines, books, on radio and TV, and in popular votes by rock music fans.
There's many reasons why John Bonham is known as the greatest rock drummer. His early influences were the great jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, but John was mainly self-taught. Gaining a reputation early on as one of the most powerful drummers around, he got the sack when playing in Pat Wayne and The Beachcombers for "playing too loud". Maybe his controlled and accurate release of power while playing drums was a reflection of the racing cars and hot rods he admired from an early age and famously collected later in his life?
Despite his worldwide fame, many don't know that John was born and raised in the West Midlands town of Redditch where he lived for most of his life and where an impressive memorial by acclaimed sculptor Mark Richards was finally erected during 2018 in recognition of his formidable legacy.
Like many young musicians starting out, John Bonham played with a few different local line-ups before finding a regular gig with Terry Webb and The Spiders who performed mainly around Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was while performing in The Spiders that John started to gain his reputation as one of the loudest drummers in the West Midlands.
John Bonham's first professional band was called "The Senators" with whom he made his first record in 1964 while still a teenager. The line-up also included Terry Beal (lead vocal), Graham Dennis (rhythm guitar), Bill Ford (bass guitar), and Trevor McGowan (lead guitar). The band was one of fourteen featured on the now-rare "Brum Beat" album issued by DIAL Records in an effort to showcase the best local beat groups from Birmingham.
Bill Ford remembers those days well including the unforgettable occasion when John first joined the group. Although the Senators were an early step along the road to fame and fortune for John Bonham, Bill and John formed a lasting friendship and kept in touch after they left the band and up until John's life ended so tragically.
Bill Ford, who provided the exclusive story of The Senators as shown on the BrumBeat website (see The Senators), recently participated in an excellent video production celebrating the life of John Bonham compiled by the "John Bonham Memorial Friends" and produced by Redditch Media Services.
Bill is shown in the video sharing his memories of John Bonham along with others who were interviewed including Birmingham's own Move and ELO drummer Bev Bevan, and famous "Vanilla Fudge" drummer Carmine Appice.
These interviews, pictures, and narration provide fascinating insight into a little known chapter in the life of John Bonham during which time he emerged as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time - or should we say THE greatest?
This tribute to John Bonham video is now available to be seen on YouTube for free and can be accessed by clicking on the link below.
Thanks to Derek Cooke for supplying the John Bonham Redditch Memorial photo.