johnbonhamdrums.com

Welcome to the John Bonham Drum kits page. This site attempts to list the various drum kits and specs used by John Henry 'Bonzo' Bonham throughout his life and career, from his early days as a local up and coming drummer, his legendary contribution to one of the biggest bands in the world, Led Zeppelin, and to his untimely death on 25 September 1980.

This site is a work in progress as all the information gathered here is from various heavily researched sources including from archived interviews (by either John Bonham himself or others that have worked or been associated with him), forums, books, drum magazine articles and from many existing photos that were carefully studied to determine what the details of each drum kit consisted of. The best effort was done with all the information available to try and be as accurate as possible with details such as drum kit brand, drum sizes, finish, hardware, heads, sticks, etc. Any additional photos, errors or factual input on John Bonham's various set ups are welcomed by sending an email to here. Any photos used here are also not owned by this site and are strictly for drum spec purposes only. If there are any photos that should be credited to the owner or have copyright issues, please contact this site.

 

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Site last updated Jan 1, 2017

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"I'd wanted to be a drummer since I was about five years old. I used to play on a bath-salts container with wires on the bottom, and on a round coffee tin with a loose wire attached to it to give a snare drum effect. Plus there were always my mum's pots and pans." John Bonham


John Bonham - Terry Webb & The Spiders
Terry Webb & The Spiders

John Bonham - The Senators_
The Senators

 


The Nicky James Movement (Bonham top left)


John Bonham - Band Of joy
John Bonham (front) in Band Of Joy

 


The Way Of Life with John Bonham (left)

John Henry Bonham was born on May 31st 1948 in Redditch, Worcestershire, in the midlands of England. While growing up in Redditch at the age of five he showed an interest in percussion by banging on things like pots and pans, coffee tins and a bath salts container with wires attached to the bottom to filter out the salts, which gave it a snare drum type of effect. His early influences were Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich which came from his parents love of playing The Tommy Dorsey Band, Glenn Miller, Harry James and Frank Sinatra around the house. At the age of ten his mother bought him a real snare drum, which according to Mick Bonham (John's brother) was a white, Pearl snare drum. At the age of fifteen and a half his father bought him his first drum kit which Bonham described as "prehistoric" and "most of it was rust". It appears that his first kit was a four-piece Trixon in Sparkling Red. Others however have said that his first kit was Premier but so far no known photos of these drums used by Bonham have surfaced as yet. If it indeed was a Trixon kit, it may have been similar to the example one shown below.

Trixon Red Sparkle Drum Kit

"In 'The Benny Goodman Story' Krupa came right out into the front. He played drums much louder then they'd ever been played before. - and much better. People hadn't taken much notice of drums until Krupa came along" John Bonham

At age fifteen Bonham joined his first band, The Blu Star Trio where he replaced drummer Bill Harvey. Harvey recalled meeting Bonham at age fifteen and visiting him at his parents home where Bonham showed him his new Ludwig green sparkle drum kit set up in a caravan on the property, which is where he practiced. It seems that the Trixon (or Premier) kit was short lived and replaced with the Ludwig green sparkle at age fifteen. The Ludwig kit was likely a four-piece Super Classic Green Sparkle (Ludwig finish number 2004).

Other bands Bonham performed with followed throughout his teen years such as Terry Webb and the Spiders, The Senators, Gerry Levene & The Avengers, Pat Wayne and the Beachcombers, The Nicky James Movement, Steve Brett and the Mavericks, Danny King and the Mayfair Set, The Way Of Life, The Crawling King Snakes, Locomotive, Band Of Joy (which included Robert Plant) and Tim Rose. Reg Jones (Vocalist in 'The Way Of Life') has mentioned that the Ludwig kit Bonham had during his time in the band was actually blue (?). No known photos of any of these bands performing or with instruments have surfaced as yet showing John Bonham behind a drum kit except for the very top photo of Bonham (center) behind a drum kit, although only some cymbals are visible. The second and third photos above are of The Senators in 1964 and Band Of Joy in 1967. The Ludwig name would become forever associated as the main drum brand Bonham used.

The Ludwig Super Classic Green Sparkle kit Bonham used around this time likely consisted of a 22"x14" bass drum, 13"x9" rack tom, 16"x16" floor tom and a 14"x5" Supraphonic 400 metal-shell snare drum. The bass drum had the Ludwig rail consollette to mount the rack tom and an L-arm cymbal holder used for the ride cymbal. The heads were possibly Ludwig or Remo brush coated with no dampening, except for felt strips under the bass drum heads. Like Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich, Bonham possibly had Zildjian cymbals early on but switched to Paiste at some point and eventually became a Paiste cymbal endorsee using the 'Giant Beats' range (then both '2002' and '602' series later on) as they were known at the time for their ability to cut through more louder and brighter than other brands. Cymbal sizes at the time may have been as follows: 14" hi-hats, 16" crash on the left, 18" crash and 20" or 22" ride on the right. Bonham most likely continued to use this drum kit up to when he eventually joined Led Zeppelin in 1968. There is also a rumor that Bonham used to line the inside shell of his bass drum with Aluminum foil, which was a method used back in the late 60's to make it 'louder' with the theory that more sound would travel out of the drum instead of being absorbed by the shell.

The drum kit was given to Frank Hall, the drummer of the Cumbrian band, Waving At Trains. Hall eventually sold the kit in the 70's to West Cumbrian drummer Robin Melville for approximately fourty pounds. Melville then sold it a decade later to the Johnny Roadhouse music shop on Oxford Street, Manchester, England.

The photo below is an example of a Ludwig Super Classic in Green Sparkle finish showing the rail consolette and L-cymbal arm holder mounted on the bass drum.

Ludwig Super Classic Green Sparkle



"When I was ten, my mum bought me a snare drum. I've always been fascinated by drums--I felt nothing for any other instrument. Later I played a bit of acoustic guitar, but it was always drums, first and foremost. I don't reckon with that jack-of-all-trades thing." John Bonham

 

John Bonham Slingerland drum kit 1968
Photo by Jorgen Angel

Shortly after John Bonham joined Led Zeppelin in August 1968, the band did a Scandinavian tour in September billed as 'The New Yardbirds' due to contractual obligations. In the above photo, which was at Led Zeppelin's first live performance (Copenhagen September 7, 1968) Bonham used a Slingerland drum kit in sparkle finish (possibly green). Sizes appear to be a 14" x 22" bass drum, 9" x 13" tom, 16" x 16" floor tom & a 5" x 14" chrome snare. As this photo and others from this show are in black and white, it is not really clear what sparkle color finish these drums were. It has been rumored to have been either green or blue sparkle although in Modern Drummer magazine (January 1996) it mentions the kit being green sparkle. It has also been suggested that this kit was either the Yardbirds' touring kit or a rental kit and not John Bonham's. Jason Bonham (son of John Bonham) has apparently mentioned in an interview that this drum kit is now in the possession of Robert Plant. If the kit was indeed green sparkle, then the colorised photo below gives an indication of what it may have looked like. It is also rumorued that this kit was used in the recording of the first Led Zeppelin album, shortly after the tour, later in September to October 1968 at Olympic Studios, West London, England.

 

 

John Bonham Slingerland drum kit 1968

John Bonham Slingerland drum kit 1968_
The above B&W photos were also taken on the same Scandinavian tour in September 1968 with the photos showing the Slingerland logo on the front bass drum head.



At the Marquee Club, London October 18, 1968

 


"My dad had bought me my first drum kit... It was almost prehistoric--most of the metal had rusted. Later I learned how to properly look after my drums. People who don't care for their drums really annoy me." John Bonham

 

John Bonham - Ludwig Black Diamond Pearl drum kit 1968

During Led Zeppelin's first US tour which commenced December 26, 1968, Bonham, for the first three weeks of the tour, used a rented Ludwig Black Diamond Pearl wrap finish kit. Apparently a brass shelled 5" x 14" snare drum was used with this kit. The kit was likely a 3-ply (maple-poplar-maple) with a 14"x24" bass drum, 9"x13" tom, 16"x16" and 16"x18" floor toms.

 

John Bonham - Ludwig Black Diamond Pearl drum kit 1968 _

John Bonham - Ludwig Black Diamond Pearl drum kit 1968

 

 


 

"I swore to Pat that I'd give up drumming when we got married. But every night I'd come home and sit down at the drums and play. I'd be miserable if I didn't." John Bonham

 

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit

From December 1968 to the spring of 1969, Led Zeppelin toured with Vanilla Fudge, who's drummer Carmine Appice, Bonham has cited as an influence and quickly took note in envy of Carmine's oversized 'Blonde' Ludwig double bass drum kit. Carmine in turn was impressed with Bonzo's playing and assisted in getting Ludwig to take Bonham on as a Ludwig endorsee as well as arranging the exact same set of drums for him. These drums were commonly known as the Ludwig Maple kit. Maple kits did not appear in Ludwig's catalogue until 1974 so these were a customised kit made to order by Ludwig and included reinforcing rings but no white paint inside. The finish was not a wrap but rather a lacquer ('Thermo Gloss Natural Maple' and hence the 'Blonde' color) as the woodgrain is visible. The maple kit that Bonham acquired also included a second bass drum (just like Carmine's) which he used very early on until Jimmy Page was said to have had him go back to one bass drum as it was 'too much' and he 'couldn't hear himself think' onstage. The above last few photos show this double bass drum version of the kit. Bonham also seemed to have picked up a couple of other influences from Carmine Appice where he incorporated more flamboyant visuals into his playing such as stick twirling during songs and also at one point using the butt end of his sticks, just like Carmine did.

Bonham used the maple kit from 1969 to 1970 and then sold it to drummer friend Colin Fairley (boyfriend at the time to Bonham's sister Deborah). Paul Thompson, drummer for Roxy Music then purchased the kit off Fairley in 1976 for six hundred pounds. Thompson shortly afterwards saw Bonham at the premiere for The Song Remains The Same and informed him that he now owned the kit and got the impression that Bonham had wished he never parted with it. There has been some confusion over the size of the mounted tom being either 12" x 15" or 12" x 14". The Ludwig Bonham Reissue Maple Drum Kit released in the early 2000's included a 12" x 14" tom and Todd Trent from Ludwig has said that this is the size used by Bonham.

The drum specs are as follows:

6.5" x 14" Chrome Supra-Phonic Snare Drum 402
12" x 14" Tom Tom
9" x 13" or 10" x 14" Tom Tom (supplied with the kit but not used)
16" x 16" Floor Tom
16" x 18" Floor Tom
14" x 26" Bass Drum with Cymbal Holder (R)
14" x 26" Bass Drum with Cymbal Holder (L - used as 2nd bass drum but turned around)
Rogers Swivo-Matic Cymbal Stands
Rogers Swivo-Matic Hi-Hat Stand
Ludwig Atlas Snare Stand
Ludwig Speed King
Pedal Ralph Kester Ching Ring
Ludwig Gold Tone Cowbell
15" Paiste Sound Edge Hi-Hat
18" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Crash
20" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Crash
24" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Ride
29", 36" and 38" Paiste Symphonic Gongs
Heads were Remo (Emperor/Ambassador combination top and bottom) brush coated or the Ludwig equivalent. The bass drum was muffled with felt strips, at first on both the batter and front heads and then later with a 'Ritchie Ring' on the front head instead of a felt strip.

The 12"x14" tom had eight lugs (as opposed to the standard six) much like a marching snare drum and at first was mounted separately on a snare stand but later also fixed to the bass drum with a Rogers 'Swiv-O-Matic' tom mount. The hardware is a mixture of Ludwig and Rogers which included a Ludwig Speed King pedal with a felt beater. The hi-hat and cymbal stands were changed to the better and more sturdier Rogers model.

The kit was used as a four piece during some live shows and recording sessions (likely Led Zeppelin II) with a Ludwig cowbell added as seen in the above photos. It was eventually used with the two floor toms, a Paiste gong (with at first a lower floor stand and then the higher Paiste model) and some Natal congas as can been seen in the Led Zeppelin official DVD segment, live at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1970.

 

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit_John Bonham Maple Drum Kit


Note Bonham at one point used the butt end of his sticks, possibly another influence picked up from Carmine Appice, who did the same.

 

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit Studio

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit Studio

John Bonham Maple Drum Kit Studio

John Bonham Maple Double Bass Drum kit

John Bonham Maple Double Bass Drum kit

John Bonham Maple Double Bass Drum kit

John Bonham Maple Double Bass Drum kit with Page & Plant

 

John Bonham concet toms_John Bonham concet toms

Bonham also had a set of 10" & 12" chrome finish concert toms set up to be played standing up on the right front side of his kit (possibly by Robert Plant). These were used from mid-summer of 1969 through to the end of the US tour in 1970.

 

Paul Thomospn with John Bonham's Ludwig maple kit_Paul Thomospn with John Bonham's Ludwig maple kit with two bass drums
Paul Thompson (Roxy Music) with Bonham's maple kit. Interesting is that the rack tom is shallower than the one used by Bonham. Paul Thompson has stated that the tom was cut down or modified from 12"x14" to 10"x14" prior to him obtaining the drum kit. This suggests that the tom was either modified after being acquired by Colin Fairley or when Bonham still had it. The left photo shows the kit set up with one bass drum and the right photo shows it with the two bass drums (the second or left one appears to have been turned around as the keystone badge is closer to the batter side instead of the resonant or front side). Paul is also using what appears to be a Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum (which Bonham had also used at times according to drum tech Jeff Ocheltree).

 


Carmine Appice in 1969 with his 'Blonde' Ludwig maple kit which John Bonham loved and wanted the exact same kit for himself via Ludwig Drums. With Carmine's help, he acquired the kit along with an endorsement from Ludwig.

 


In the early to mid 2000's, Ludwig released a reissue John Bonham maple kit in the same sizes and finish that Bonham used. These kits however did not include reinforcement rings, internal dampeners or an L-cymbal mount (on the bass drum) as Bonham's original kit did.



"Well yeah, I was always breaking drum heads when I first started playing. Later on I learned how to play louder but without hitting the drums so hard. It has all to do with the swing of the stick." John Bonham

 

John Bonham Ludwig Blue Sparkle drum kit 1969

The above photo shows Bonham using a Ludwig Classic Blue Sparkle finish drum kit which as the photo caption states, were rented along with other gear for this particular show in Kansas City USA on November 5, 1969.

 

 

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