Today in 1948, Led Zeppelin drummer John Henry Bonham was born in Redditch, Worcestershire, in the Midlands of England. Arguably the godfather of hard rock drumming, he and three other English lads created and defined heavy metal music; he was the engine room for the ship that was Led Zeppelin.
Right from the start, Bonham was always louder than any other drummer. This was by no means accidental; as a teenager he experimented in lining his bass drum with tinfoil to give it extra kick. As a result, he later found he could trip a club’s decibel meter – designed to kill the electricity supply to the PA if a band cranked up too high – with just one thump of his right foot. In fact, by the time Bonham joined Led Zeppelin in 1968, he’d reportedly already been barred from about 30 clubs in the Midlands thanks to his thunderous performances.
Live Led Zeppelin performances truly showcased his abilities during the numerous improvised jams throughout every concert, exemplified of course by his famous “Moby Dick” drum solo (sometimes reaching a half-hour in length). Imitators are usually left frustrated, since Bonham made it look so easy – not only in his playing but also in the incredible drum sound he achieved. His legendary right foot and lightning-fast triplets were his instant trademark. He was known to play with four sticks at once, and also with his bare hands at times. He later refined his style from the hard skin-bashing approach to a more delicate wrist-controlled one, which produced an even more powerful and louder sound with less effort.
Sadly, Bonham died in 1980 at the age of 32, ending the reign of one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Today, his unmistakable drum patterns are among the most emulated and sampled by rock drummers, across all genres.