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"I really like to yell out when I'm playing. I yell like a bear to give it a boost.
I like our act to be like a thunderstorm" John Bonham


John Bonham Sonor drum kit 1969

John Bonham Sonor drum kit 1969

John Bonham Sonor drum kit 1969

John Bonham Sonor drum kit 1969
Bonham with Led Zeppelin using a Sonor 'Teardrop' drum kit (above photos) on the German TV show 'Beat Club' in March 1969 miming to two songs from the first Led Zeppelin album, 'You Shook Me' and 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You'.


John Bonham on congas in studio 1969
John Bonham (with John Paul Jones & Robert Plant) on the congas in the studio during the recording of Led Zeppelin II in 1969.


John Bonham in studio 1969
In the studio circa 1969 holding a Paiste Giant Beat crash cymbal.



John Bonham Japanese toy drum kit 1971
John Bonham January 1970
"My son Jason - he plays you know. I've got him a little Japanese drum kit, made to scale. It's got a 14 inch bass drum. He's got his mother's looks, but in character he is just like me. He's always drumming, even when we go out in the car he takes his sticks to bash on the seats. Before the end of Led Zeppelin I'm going to have him on stage with us at the Albert Hall." John Bonham


John Bonham with Jason Bonham 1974
John Bonham with son Jason Bonham circa 1974 (with a 'miniature' version of the Amber Vistalite Kit).


John Bonham on Jason Bonham drum kit 1974
John Bonham on a smaller version of the Ludwig Amber Vistalite Kit given to a very young Jason Bonham circa 1975.


John Bonham with Led Zeppelin jam 1975
Jamming at a local bar (with the other Led Zeppelin members) circa late 1975 around the time of recording the album 'Presence'.


John Bonham Tympani drum 1977
Circa 1977 with the 29" Ludwig Machine Timpani drum and Ralph Kester Ching Ring.


Bonham at Manitcore Rehearsal Studios (with the Ludwig Stainless Steel Kit), London January 1977


John Bonham charity gig in Chelsea 1978
Bonham appears to be using the Ludwig Amber Vistalite kit for this gig.


John Bonham jam 1980
Jamming with a local band circa 1980.


John Bonham jam in gorilla suit 1980
On a Gretsch kit (complete with a Gorilla suit!) jamming with a local band circa 1980.



"I don't consider that I'm particularly influenced by anyone or anything. But when I started playing, I was influenced by early soul. It was just that feel, that sound." John Bonham

John Bonham Supraphonic snare_John Bonham Supraphonic snare
Some of John Bonham's snare drums were sold off over the years, mainly the Ludwig Supraphonic L402 6.5"x14" models. Dave Grohl (Nivarna, Foo Fighters) is said to own one of the L402's.


John Bonham Paiste agreement 1971

John Bonham Paiste cymbal list
John Bonham was also an endorsee for Paiste Cymbals for most of his career. At first he used the 'Giant Beats' range before being replaced with the 2002 series. He also used a couple of cymbals from the lighter 602 range. Above is his Paiste agreement from 1971 as well as the cymbal list from Paiste in the order that he got them:


John Bonham Paiste Artists Profile
From the Paiste Artists book.


John Bonham Paiste ad_John Bonham Ludwig drums ad
John Bonham Paiste Cymbals and Ludwig Drums ads.


Paiste eventually released a 'Bonham Cymbal Pack' in the 2002 series with the same configuration that John Bonham used. The pack consists of a 24" ride, 15" Sound Edge hi-hats, 18" crash and 18" medium crash, along with a Paiste cymbal bag and a Jeff Ocheltree 'Trust Your Ears' DVD.


John Bonham tuning drums
Bonham tuned his drums fairly high in the style of jazz drummers and with no dampening except for felt strips on the bass drum batter and resonant heads. For at least both the Maple and Green Sparkle kits, a 'Ritchie Ring' cut out from an old head was used on the resonant head (as can be seen in some photos). Bonham also preferred his batter drum heads to be well worn in and wasn't always fond of having them changed often. He preferred the sound of worn in heads as opposed to new, so his drum techs, such as Jeff Ocheltree (Bonham's drum tech 1977-1980), would only change a drum head when absolutely necessary, and when he did he would get them well worn in (stretching, sand paper or whatever it took) to Bonham's liking. You can see the well worn heads in some photos and videos (such as the rack tom in the photo above).

Mick Hinton, Bonham's drum tech in the 70's also said in an interview "It was always the 14"x6-1/2" metal snare. And I introduced the Gretsch 42-strand snare to him - I got him to try it out and he loved it. There was no damping in the bass drum at all, no felt strip, just a Dr Scholl's moleskin patch (where the beater impacted). He tuned it up fairly high, but his great thing was the snare drum. That had to be absolutely spot on, so he tuned it himself. I'd take his snare drum down to the dressing room on its stand with a pair of stick. But I don't think he warmed up. They came on-stage and there was never any tuning up or anything, it was straight into the first number. Soon as he sat down he'd be off. He made sure the snare was tuned and I tuned the rest, mostly to his liking. I'd tune the bottom heads quite tight but I don't think I ever changed them. The top heads were slacker than the bottoms, but his sound was more to do with the way he played - it was nothing to do with me."



John Bonham Promuco drum sticks

John Bonham Promuco drum sticks
John Bonham 'signature' Promuco 5B drum sticks circa 1975. They measure 15.95" long by .59" in diameter and were made by Eddie Ryan at Promuco in England. Other sources have said that John Bonham also used Ludwig 2A (in 1977 to 1980 - Jeff Ocheltree), 2B and 5B Hickory Sticks. Another source claims that John Bonham used 16-inch Premier sticks with an acorn tip.


Ludwig Speed King Pedal
John Bonham used a Ludwig Speed King pedal with the springs fairly tight. At first he used a felt beater but at later times he also used a wooden beater.


Gretsch 42 strand snare wires
John Bonham used 18-strand Ludwig snare wires and then later on around 1977, he used Gretsch 42-strand wires for a 'wider' sound.


John Bonham Premier drum throne_John Bonham Premier drum throne
Bonham used a black top 70's Premier Throne (notice the spare 402 snare drum near the gong in the left photo).


John Bonham Drum kit backshot 1973
One thing that's always puzzled many drummers is how Bonham managed to use a 24" ride cymbal on a relatively unstable bass drum mount. Mick Hinton (Bonham's drum tech) has said in an interview: "You'd be amazed how tight I could do that," says Mick. "I had a heavy duty spanner. I had so many spares in a wooden flight case about six foot by three foot, with a tray in the top for the cymbals. I carried spare cymbals but we never used them. I'd check the cymbals every night for cracks. It took me about three hours to set up [the kit] and that included miking. We used mostly Shure SM57s. The bass drum had three mics, two in front and one on the batter. Two on the snare, above and below, one on each tom and two overheads. Then one pointing directly, almost horizontal, at the side of the hi-hat. One on the gong and one on each timp. Our main soundman was Rusty Brutsche who co-owned Showco in Dallas, Texas. They did all the PA and the lighting. He was really good and that's why the band never did any soundchecks after the first night of each tour. John had a huge monitor behind him, made by Showco. John's mix was a lot of drums, especially snare and kick, a lot of guitar and some bass. Voice and keyboards weren't that important to what he wanted to hear."


John Bonham 29 inch Paiste gong
John Bonham's 29-inch Paiste Gong was on display at Bonham's (no relation) Auction House, ca. June 2009, Los Angeles, California. In Bob Daisley's (Widowmaker, Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne) book 'For Facts Sake', he mentions that his friend, Bonham's early to mid 70's drum tech Mick Hinton, had one of Bonham's gongs set up in his living room as a coffee table!


Polar Music Studios John Bonham kits
In November 1978 Led Zeppelin recorded their 8th and final studio album 'In Through The Out Door' at ABBA's Polar Music Studios in Stockholm. According to Lennart Östlund, the managing director of the studio before it closed it's doors in 2004, Bonham had two drum kits set up. The photo above is supposedly from those sessions in 1978 showing Bonham's two kits, the Ludwig Green Sparkle and what appears to be the Ludwig Stainless Steel kit. Lennart Östlund recalls "He [Bonham] sat there, in the 'stone room' in front of the cloud panels with two sets of drums, but to get the right echo effect we moved the speaker for the bass drum out to the reception and put a microphone in front of it".


Bonham during the acoutsic set with a tambourine and mallet circa 1977.



"When I started playing I was most impressed by those early soul records. I like the feel and the sound they achieved. I suppose I said to myself, I'll get that sound too." John Bonham


Led Zeppelin on TV Show 'Beat Club' March 1969 miming to 'You Shook Me' with John Bonham on a Sonor drum kit.


'Moby Dick' (drum solo) Royal Albert Hall 1970 with the Ludwig Maple Kit
"I usually play [Moby Dick] for twenty minutes, and the longest I've ever done was under thirty. It's a long time, but when I'm playing it seems to fly by., There have been times when I have blundered, and got the dreaded look from the lads. But that's a good sign. It shows you're attempting something you've not tried before." John Bonham


'Communication Breakdown' video clip 1969 with Bonham on the double bass drum version of the Maple Kit.


Drum solo (from 'Moby Dick') on The Ludwig Green Sparkle kit in Sydney, Australia in 1972


'Moby Dick' drum solo Madison Square Garden 1973 with Bonham on the Ludwig Amber Vistalite Kit.


'Drum Solo' in Seattle 1977 with Bonham on the Ludwig Stainless Steel Kit.


Paul McCartney & Friends Rockestra Documentary 1978 (Pt 1/4) which features John Bonham playing a Staccato Voyager 6 Drum Kit.

Paul McCartney & Friends Rockestra Documentary 1978 (Pt 2/4) which features John Bonham playing a Staccato Voyager 6 Drum Kit.


Paul McCartney & Friends Rockestra Documentary 1978 (Pt 3/4) which features John Bonham playing a Staccato Voyager 6 Drum Kit.


Paul McCartney & Friends Rockestra Documentary 1978 (Pt 4/4) which features John Bonham playing a Staccato Voyager 6 Drum Kit.


Some recent (2010?) video shot by Jason Bonham of the room at the Old Hyde Farm where Bonham's drums are still kept.


Jeff Ocheltree (John Bonham's drum tech in 1977 & 1979) excerpt from his DVD, 'Trust Your Ears', in which he talks about John Bonham's drumkits and miking technique for the Ludwig Green Sparkle and Amber Vistalite kits. 


"I can't say how long Led Zeppelin will last, but we'll go on for as long as we can." John Bonham


John Bonham Modern Drummer magazine 1984

John Bonham Rhythm magazine_John Bonham Modern Drummer magazine 1986

John Bonham Rhythm magazine_John Bonham Drum! Magazine

John Bonham Traps magazine_John Bonham Rhythm magazine

Rhythm & Drums Magazine - John Bonham_

John Bonham with tambourine 1977
R.I.P. John Henry Bonham, 1948-1980


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