johnbonhamdrums.com

< Back | 1 | 2 | 3 | Next >

 

"When I first started playing, I was interested in music and I was able to read it. But when I moved into playing with groups, I did a silly thing and dropped it. I do think it's great to be able to write down ideas in music form. But I also think that feeling is a lot more important in drumming than mere technique. It's all very well to be playing a triple paradiddle--but who's going to know you're actually doing it? If you pay too much attention to technique, you start to sound like every other drummer does. I think that being original is what counts. When I listen to other drummers, I like to be able to say, 'Oh, that's nice, I haven't heard that before.' I think that being yourself as a drummer is so much better than sounding like anyone else." John Bonham

 

John Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit 72

In the spring of 1970, Bonham went back to using a Green Sparkle wrap kit. Ludwig provided him with three Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kits. Bonham used this drum-kit from 1970 to until the end of the 1973 European tour. It was said to be his favorite kit to use in the studio and were also used in the recording of Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses Of The Holy, Physical Graffiti, Presence and In Through The out Door. Bonham also started to use Timpani or 'Kettle' drums, set up to his left and had replaced the concert toms and congas. Specs are as follows:

14"x26" bass drum with rail mount and L-cymbal mount
10"x14" tom
16"x16" floor tom
16"x18" floor tom
6.5"x14" Supraphonic 402 snare drum
Ludwig Gold Tone Cowbell
15" Paiste Sound Edge Hi-Hat
16" Paiste 2002 Medium Crash (1973)
18" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Crash
20" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Crash
20" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Crash (1970-1972)
20" Paiste 602 Medium Crash (1973)
38" Paiste Symphonic Gong
Ludwig Atlas Stands (Flat Steel Legs)
Rogers Swivo-Matic Hi-Hat Stand
Ludwig Speed King Pedal
Ralph Kester Ching Ring
29" Ludwig Machine Timpani Drum
30" Ludwig Universal Timpani Drum

Heads were Remo (Emperor/Ambassador combination top and bottom) brush coated or the Ludwig equivalent. After John Bonham's death, one of the drum kits was given to drum technician Jeff Ocheltree, another was kept by Pat Bonham, John's widow, which at one point were on loan to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, and now resides at the Bonham family home, the Old Hyde Farm in Wolcestershire, England with John's picture over it (see photo below). The third kit was purchased by a collector in upstate New York. These are the drums that can be heard on Led Zeppelin classics such as Black Dog, Rock And Roll and Stairway To Heaven.

Jimmy Page has mentioned in interviews that he has one of the bass drums in his Sol studio and was used by Jason Bonham during the recording of his 1988 solo album, 'Outrider'. It is likely that this bass drum was a back-up spare that Bonham kept handy on tour from one of the three drum kits that were given to him by Ludwig. Mick Hinton, who became Bonham's new drum tech in 1971 has said in an interview "I had the other [bass drum] set up as a spare - a 26" bass drum, 14" tom and a cymbal arm mounted on the bass drum. It was an exact replica, tuned the same, so if a skin went, all you had to do was take that part of the kit out. He used a Roger hi-hat pedal and a Ludwig Speed King bass pedal with a wooden beater. He hit the bass drum so hard that sometimes the beater would fly off and he'd put the rod through the bass drum head. It happened the first time and I wasn't expecting it. After that, if I saw the beater go, I'd get in there and pull his foot off the pedal and put another complete Speed King on. Sometimes it was too late because he played so fast."


John Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit 72

John Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit 72
Bonham during recording sessions at Stargroves in England 1972 with the Green Sparkle Kit.

 

John Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit 72

John Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit 72_John Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit 72
The Ludwig Green Sparkle kit made it's debut onstage for the June 22, 1970 concert at Reykjavik in Iceland. Bonham also had a wooden platform or riser that he had his drum set up on (as can be seen in the bottom left photo). It consisted of sheets of plywood joined together with hinges so that it could be folded up. Mick Hinton (who's first gig with Bonham was in Belfast, Ireland on March 5, 1971) has said in an interview, "My job was to have the kit in exactly the same position every night. everything was geared to him playing immediately without making any adjustments. I'd code the stands with different coloured tape, and I used jubilee clips (proto-memory locks) so everything was the same height every night. We had a [wooden] riser with holes drilled for all the tom legs, spurs and hi-hat. The holes were about half-inch deep so everything slotted in. And I'd put a strip of gaffa tape over each leg to stick it to the floor. I got Ludwig to drill holes in the front bass drum hoop so I could stick a bolt through to anchor that bass drum down. if I hadn't anchored that bass drum down I promise you it would have been in row four the first time he hit it."


John Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit 71_John Bonham Green Sparkle Ludwig 1971
Ludwig Green Sparkle Kit circa 1971

 


A backshot of Bonham's kit taken April 1, 1973. What's interesting about this photo is the clear drum head on the bass drum batter side and also what looks like on the rack tom as well. Up until this point, Bonham always previously had coated heads.

 

Zoe Bonham Ludwig Green Sparkle drum kit
Zoe Bonham (John Bonham's Daughter) on the Green Sparkle kit at the Old Hyde Farm.



"I've always liked drums to be big and powerful. I've never been into using cymbals overmuch. I use them to crash into a solo and out of it, but basically I prefer the actual drum sound. To me drums sound better than cymbals." John Bonham

 

John Bonham Amber Vistalite Drum kit 1973

Bonham received his third kit from Ludwig in March 1973 and was to become his most famous kit, the Amber Vistalite Kit. This kit is forever immortalised in the Led Zeppelin movie, 'The Song Remains The Same', released in 1976. The kit was first used on stage at the concert on May 4, 1973 in Atlanta, Georgia. USA. There are some sources that claim that in addition to the 16"x16" & 16"x18" floor toms supplied with the kit, a larger 16"x20" & a 16"x22" floor tom were also supplied and alternated with the smaller ones at varying times during the tour, especially during the filming for 'The Song Remains The Same' over some of the three nights at Madison Square Gardens in New York in 1973. Also another bass drum was also supplied (likely used as a back-up). Clear Black Dot CS Remo heads were also used for the batter sides and clear Ambassadors for the resonate sides. The only muffling used was on the bass drum with a felt strip laid horizontally on the lower part of the batter head, and a 'reso' or 'Ritchie' ring on the front head (see bottom photo).

Bonham was one of the first to play this new Vistalite line from Ludwig and was the only Amber tinted kit of the first run. Bonham last used this kit on stage at Earl's Court Arena, London on May 23, 1975. The kit was eventually auctioned off at Sotheby's to (now deceased) collector Bill Townsend for over £100,000 ($161,060.00 USD), with the proceeds going to charity. Specs are as follows:

6.5" x 14"Chrome Supra-Phonic Snare Drum
10" x 14" Mounted Tom
16" x 16" Floor Tom
16 " x18" Floor Tom
14" x 26" Bass Drum with Rail Mount & L-Cymbal Mount
29" Ludwig Machine Timpani Drum
30" Ludwig Universal Timpani Drum
Ludwig Atlas Stands (Flat Steel Legs)
Rogers Swivo-Matic Hi-Hat Stand
Ludwig Speed King Pedal
Ralph Kester 7" Ching Ring
Ludwig 5" Gold Tone Cowbell
15" Paiste Sound Edge Hi-Hat
18" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Crash
20" Paiste 602 Series Medium Crash
20" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Crash
24" Paiste Giant Beat Medium Ride
38" Paiste Symphonic Gong

Mick Hinton, Bonham's drum tech in the early to mid 70's also said in an interview that "he used a Rogers hi-hat pedal and Ludwig Speed King bass pedal with a wooden beater. Every tour, Ludwig supplied one gross (144) pairs of 2A hickory sticks. We used Remo CS black dot heads." (likely referring to Bonham's period with the Amber Vistalite kit).

 

John Bonham Amber Vistalite Drum kit 1973

John Bonham Amber Vistalite Drum kit 1973

John Bonham Amber Vistalite Drum kit 1973

John Bonham Amber Vistalite Drum kit 1975

John Bonham Amber Vistalite Drum kit 1973

 

 


In the early to mid 2000's, Ludwig released a reissue John Bonham Amber Vistalite kit in the same sizes and finish that Bonham used. These kits however did not include internal dampeners or the rail and L-cymbal mounts on the bass drum as Bonham's original kit did.

 


A Vistalite snare drum supposedly once owned by John Bonham went up for auction via Christies in June 2014. The auction ad claims he used this snare through 1973-1975. Although Bonham did indeed use an Amber Vistalite kit during this period, he still used a Ludwig Supraphonic metal snare. It's possible the Vistalite snare was supplied with the Vistalite kit and Bonham kept it in storage. The auction link can be viewed here.



"It wasn't so much what you could play with your hands--you got a lovely little tone out of the drums that you couldn't get with sticks. I thought it would be a good thing to do so I've been doing it ever since. You really get an absolutely true drum sound because there's no wood involved. It hurts your hands at first, but then the skin hardens. I think I can hit a drum harder with my hands than with sticks." John Bonham

 

John Bonham on what mistakenly the Ludwig Silver Sparkle drum kit
The Ludwig Silver Sparkle drum-kit was rumoured to have only been used in the studio to record 'Presence' in November 1975. Other sources claim it was actually the green sparkle kit. The above live photo has often been confused for the Ludwig Silver Sparkle kit due the the lighting, but is actually the Ludwig Green Sparkle kit taken in late 1972 (if you look at the finish closely). No photos of Bonham on a silver sparkle kit have ever surfaced to date.

 


Another photo possibly taken at the same show as the upper photo (Bonham is wearing the same shirt) and clearly is using the Ludwig Green Sparkle kit.



 

"When I first started, Ginger (Baker) was a big image in Britain. He was a star in his own right. In the old big band era, a drummer was a backing musician and nothing else. In the early American bands, the drummer played almost unnoticed with brushes, always in the background. Gene Krupa was the first big band drummer to be really noticed. He came right out into the front and he played drums much louder than they had ever been played before. And much better. People hadn't taken much notice of drums until Krupa came along. Ginger was responsible for the same sort of thing in rock. Rock music had been around for a few years before Baker, but he was the first to come out with this "new" attitude--that a drummer could be a forward part of a rock band...not something that was stuck in the background and forgotten about. I don't think anyone can ever put Ginger Baker down. Of course, every drummer has his own idea of just when Baker was at his absolute peak...I thought he was just fantastic when he played with the Graham Bond Organization. It's really a pity that American and Japanese audiences didn't see that band because it really was a fantastic line-up consisting of Jack Bruce, Graham Bond and Ginger Baker. Personally I think Ginger Baker was more into Jazz than rock...he definitely did play with jazz influence. He was always doing things in 5/4 and 3/4 tempos which are associated with jazz. Unfortunately he's always been a very weird sort of bloke. You couldn't really get to know him--he just wouldn't allow it. Ginger's thing as a drummer was that he was always himself. It was pointless for anyone to try to do what he was doing. And Eric Clapton was the same in the guitar field." John Bonham

 

John Bonham Ludwig Stainless Steel drum kit 1977
The Ludwig Stainless Steel Kit shown here on June 8, 1977 at Madison Square Gardens, New York.

John Bonham acquired his forth and final stage drum kit from Ludwig in April 1977 in what is known as the Stainless Steel Kit, due to its Stainless Steel shells and polished steel look. Bonham used the Ludwig Stainless Steel drum-kit from the beginning of the 1977 US Tour until Led Zeppelin's last show on July 07, 1980. It was also said to be used in the recording of Led Zeppelin's last studio album 'In Through The Out Door' although it has also been said that only wooden shelled drums kits were used in the studio (mostly the Ludwig Green Sparkle kit). There is however a photo showing both the Stainless Steel and Green Sparkle drum kits in the companion booklet included with the deluxe edition of 'In Through The Out Door'. This Stainless Steel kit is now in possession of an unknown Canadian collector. Specs are as follows:

6.5" x 14" Chrome Supraphonic 402 Snare Drum with 42-stand snare wires
12" x 15" Mounted Tom (with full length Mach lugs)
10" x 14" Mounted Tom
16" x 16" Floor Tom
16" x 18" Floor Tom
14" x 26" Bass Drum with Double Tom Mount
29" Ludwig Machine Timpani Drum
30" Ludwig Universal Timpani Drum
Ludwig Hercules cymbal Stands
Rogers Swivo-Matic Hi-Hat Stand
Ludwig Speed King Pedal
Ralph Kester Ching Ring
Ludwig Gold Tone Cowbell
15" Paiste Sound Edge 2002 Hi-Hat
16" Paiste 2002 Medium Crash
18" Paiste 2002 Medium Crash
18" Paiste 2002 Ride
20" Paiste 602 Medium Ride
24" Paiste 2002 Ride
38" Paiste Symphonic Gong

 

John Bonham Ludwig Stainless Steel drum kit 1977

John Bonham Ludwig Stainless Steel drum kit 1980

 

John Bonham Ludwig Stainless Steel drum kit
A replica Stainless Steel Ludwig Kit on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in London (with 6.5"x14" stainless steel snare). Bonham also substituted the 12"x15" mounted tom (with Mach full length lugs) with a 10"x14" version with standard Ludwig tom lugs as can be seen in the above bottom two photos.

 


In the early to mid 2000's, Ludwig released a reissue John Bonham stainless Steel kit in the same sizes that Bonham used, which included the full length mach lugs on the rack tom and a L-cymbal mount on the bass drum.



"I've got worse. I have terribly bad nerves all the time. Once we start into 'Rock And Roll' I'm fine. I just can't stand sitting around, and I worry about playing badly - and if I do then I'm really pissed off. If I play well, I feel fine. Everybody in the band is the same, and each has some little thing they do before we go on, like pacing about or lighting a cigarette. It's worse at festivals. You might have to sit around for a whole day and you daren't drink because you'll get tired and blow the gig. So you sit drinking tea in a caravan with everybody saying, "Far out, man."" John Bonham

 

John Bonham Black & White Spiral Vistalite drum kit

In 1975 John Bonham was given 18 pieces of Black & White Spiral Ludwig Vistalite series drums directly from Ludwig. These drums were never used live on stage nor in the studio and were just kept at John Bonham's home, the Old Hyde Farm in Worcestershire, England. Some of the sizes from the above photos in total appear to be as follows:

14 x 22" or 24" bass drum with rail mount and L-cymbal holder
8" x 12" concert tom
9" x 13" concert tom
10" x 14" mounted tom
16" x 16" floor tom
16" x 18" floor tom
6.5" x 14" Supraphonic 402 snare drum
Zildjian Cymbals

 

John Bonham Black & White Spiral Vistalite drum kit

John Bonham Black & White Spiral Vistalite drum kit

Bonham gave some of the drum pieces to rock journalist Chris Welch which Welch then used the drum-kit for a few years in jazz bands. He eventually sold it to Phil Harris of Harris Hire Vintage Musical Instruments in 1998 for £950. Over the years, the drum-kit has been used by some notable musicians, including Robbie Williams, Shawn Drover from Megadeth and Manic Street Preachers. The drum-kit may have been acquired by Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood at some point. On September 4, 2008, the Black & White Spiral Ludwig Vistalite drum-kit was sold at The Fame Bureau auction house for $41,000 to an unknown buyer. The remaining pieces (shown in the first three upper photos, set up with the concert toms) are now in possession of John Bonham's daughter, Zoe.

 

John Bonham Black & White Spiral Vistalite drum kit with Mick Fleetwood
Mick Fleetwood & Ted Owen of The Fame Bureau, London, England, ca. September 2008.

 

John Bonham Supraphonic 402 snare drum_John Bonham Supraphonic 402 snare drum
The Ludwig 6.5"x14" Supraphonic 402 snare drum along with the road case from this kit was eventually auctioned off on Ebay for US$17,000. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and ex Nirvana) is said to also own one of Bonham's Supraphonic 402 snare drums.

 


"When I left school I went into the trade with my Dad. He had a building business and I used to like it. But drumming was the only thing I was any good at, and I stuck at that for three or four years. If things got bad I could always go back to building" John Bonham

 

John Bonham Staccato Voyager 6 drum kit 1979

John Bonham was invited to be involved in the recording of two songs, 'So Glad To See You Here' and 'Rockestra Theme' with Paul McCartney and the Rockestra Orchestra on October 03, 1978 at Abbey Road Studios, City of Westminster, London, England. For this session Bonham used a Staccato Voyager 6 Drum-kit with its distinct, curved design of concert toms or single headed drums. The two tracks can be found on The Wings' 1979 album 'Return to the Egg'. The Rockestra Theme was performed live at the Concert for the People of Kampuchea at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, England on December 29, 1979, however Bonham used the Ludwig Stainless Steel Drum-kit for this show. The fiberglass-shelled Staccato Voyager 6 Drum-kit features 6", 8", 10" & 12" Rack Toms, an 18" Floor Tom and a 22" Bass Drum.

 

John Bonham Staccato Voyager 6 drum kit 1979

John Bonham Staccato Voyager 6 drum kit 1979

Staccato Voyager 6 drum kit

 

 

 

< Back | 1 | 2 | 3 | Next >

www.alexvanhalendrums.com

 

www.petercrissdrums.com

 

© This site designed by LAC Productions 2015