May 31 marks the birthday of John Bonham, the late drummer of Led Zeppelin, who totally influenced and changed the rules of hard rock and roll and contemporary blues with his power, wallop, speed, a right foot as fast as Mercury, and an almost athleticism on his drum kit, which to this day is regarded by some as the greatest techniques and posturing ever put forth on that musical instrument.
Born in 1948, in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, Bonham began playing percussion at five years old, beating on a makeshift drum set made out of containers and coffee tins, doing his best Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich imitations, who were two of his idols. His mom gave him his first snare drum when he was ten. He got his first real kit, a Premier Percussion set, from his father five years later. Bonham never had any formal training of any kind, except for the countless records he listened to growing up. When he was in school, his headmaster wrote once on his school report card that “he will either end up a dustman or a millionaire.” After school, working a day job as an apprentice carpenter, he tooled around in various local bands, eventually joining a one called Crawling King Snakes, which featured Robert Plant on lead vocals. The two of them eventually formed Band of Joy.
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