Jason Bonham

Jason Paul Bonham (born 15 July 1966) is an English drummer and son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Bonham has worked as a session drummer, been involved with his own solo projects, performed notably with Foreigner, UFO, Healing Sixes, and Black Country Communion, and represented his father on Led Zeppelin award ceremonies and reunion concerts since 1988.

Bonham was born in the town of Dudley, West Midlands. He first began playing drums at the age of four, and appeared with his father in the 1976 concert film The Song Remains the Same, drumming on a scaled-down kit. Jason also photographed for an English toy company, as their kit model drummer boy. During the 1970s, he was raised on the Bonham family estate, the Old Hyde on Cutnall Green, and attended the Elmfield Rudolf Steiner School in Stourbridge, West Midlands. He would occasionally play drums for family and friends who visited the Old Hyde. Jason rarely went to see Led Zeppelin in concert because his father was a firm believer in the fact that school work always came first. He did however attend the band's Earls Court show on 24 May 1975, and jam with the band during studio breaks in the recording of Presence in 1976 at Musicland Studios. Jason also performed 'Trampled Under Foot' during a soundcheck at the Knebworth festival on Wednesday 1 August 1979, much to the surprise of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who didn't know John Bonham had moved to the front of the stage to check out sound levels. Jason's father also introduced him to the sport of motocross at the age of ten, when the Bonham family was on vacation in the south of France, and by the age of 14, Jason was an endorsed factory rider for Kawasaki. He was placed second in the 1980 British Junior National Championships, missing out on the title by just one point.

He decided however to make a career out of music with his main influences being his father, Stewart Copeland, Ritchie Hayward, and Jeff Porcaro. Bonham also learnt to play keyboards and mandolin. In 1981, Bonham went into the studio with Robert Plant and guitarist Robbie Blunt to drum on some demos, which eventually became the basis of Plant's first solo album Pictures at Eleven. Bonham would also assist again with Plant's The Principle of Moments album demos in 1982. At 17, Bonham joined his first band, Airrace, and they were signed to a recording deal with Atlantic Records by Phil Carson. After the release of their debut album Shaft of Light, while on tour in Europe, they opened for Queen, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, AC/DC, and Meatloaf. In 1985 he joined Virginia Wolf, whose first album Virginia Wolf was produced by Roger Taylor of Queen. This band went on to open for the Firm, which featured Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers, on their 1986 North American tour, before recording a second album Push. Bonham also joined Page at the Heartbreak Hotel nightclub, San Antonio, for a one-off performance with house band the Breakers on 4 August 1986. During this time Bonham was also reportedly approached but turned down offers to join bands Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne.

In 1988, Bonham joined former Page for his Outrider album and tour. In May of the same year, Bonham appeared with the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin for a performance at Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert in New York. Multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones believes Bonham's performance was outstanding that night. He remarked: 'It was uncanny, Jason had every nuance of his father's approach to the group's music, it was as though we'd played together for years.' In 1989, Bonham appeared as a special guest at the Moscow Music Peace Festival, performing the song 'Rock and Roll' and 'Moby Dick' with many major rock stars of the day. Those performances later appeared on the charity album Stairway to Heaven & Highway to Hell. That same year, he formed his own band, Bonham, whose Zeppelin-inflected RIAA gold first release The Disregard of Timekeeping produced a hit single, 'Wait for You'. After a lengthy tour, Bonham released their second, and last album together, Mad Hatter, which received a lukewarm response and the band decided to separate, with Bonham concentrating on session work and guest appearances.

On 28 April 1990, Bonham married nurse Jan Ellen Charteris, at St Mary's Parish Church in Stone, near Kidderminster. His wedding reception at the Heath Hotel, Bewdley, included a jam with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones. The Bonham's have two children, a son named Jager Henry (not named after Mick, born October 1996), and a daughter, Jaz Ellen Bonham (born 23 June 1993). Jager is also a drummer.

Bonham drummed for Paul Rodgers on the Grammy nominated Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters project. A year later with Slash and Rodgers, he appeared at Woodstock II in 1994. Bonham reformed his band with a new lead vocalist, Marti Frederiksen, replacing Daniel MacMaster. Renamed Motherland, they released the album Peace 4 Me later in 1994. In keeping with his down-to-earth nature he made an encore drumming appearance for local Led Zeppelin tribute band Fred Zeppelin. Bonham attended the studio recording of the Jimmy Page and Robert Plant MTV special No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, but did not participate. In 1995, Jason represented his father when Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with his younger sister Zoe Bonham by his side. Jason became actively involved in the charity, the John Bonham Memorial Motorcycle Camp for Kids. Bonham soon put together another solo project under the name the Jason Bonham Band. A handful of small charity shows were planned but it quickly grew to a full Led Zeppelin tribute tour as audience reaction was overwhelming, which culminated with In the Name of My Father: The Zepset. Proceeds from the album went to the charity. Bonham when interviewed for the project stated: 'My father [John Bonham] was a very charitable man. I'm following his example. It's a joy for me to be able to play these wonderful songs and give a little something back to help a few young people find their way.'

The band then toured including Supercross events as part of their concert itinerary. The album was followed up with the moderately successful When You See the Sun. In 1999, Bonham sessioned for Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul album Born Again Savage, recorded at Avarar Studios, New York.

Bonham drummed for Healing Sixes from 1999 – 2003, recording on the Kevin Shirley produced album Enormosound in 2002, and appeared in the film Rock Star, which starred Mark Wahlberg. The band in the film, Steel Dragon actually recorded the songs featured in the film and the soundtrack. Following an album and tour with his aunt Deborah Bonham, Jason Bonham was invited to drum for hard rock group UFO, recording the studio album You Are Here, the live disc Showtime, and the subsequent DVD. He relocated with his family from England to Boca Raton, Florida in February 2005. In 2006, he recorded You & Me with Joe Bonamassa. Bonham starred with Ted Nugent, Evan Seinfeld, Sebastian Bach, and Scott Ian on the VH1 reality television show, SuperGroup, in May 2006. The musicians formed a band called Damnocracy (after ditching the names Fist, God War, and Savage Animal) for the show, during which they lived in a mansion in Las Vegas for twelve days and created music. Jason also played drums live with Foreigner from 2004 to 2007 and part of 2007 to 2008.

On 12 September 2007, it was announced that Jason Bonham would step into his father's shoes and play drums for a Led Zeppelin reunion concert. This took place on 10 December 2007, at London's O2 arena as part of an all-star tribute to Ahmet Ertegun. Following the concert, Bonham was working with guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones on a new band that wouldn't be called Led Zeppelin, but after trying out a number of singers including Steven Tyler and Scott Stapp, for the group, the musicians parted company. Bonham later stated he wanted the project to continue.

In September 2009, Jason Bonham briefly resurrected Bonham with Kelly Keeling, Ian Hatton, Tony Catania, and Francesco Dicosmo, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of The Disregard of Timekeeping. A total of five shows were performed (three in Florida, and two in California). Jason also appeared on Slash's solo album in 2009, as well as recording an album with Joe Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes, and Derek Sherinian, under the name Black Country Communion. On 13 September 2010, as part of the New York Jets' season opening concert, Bonham performed alongside Myles Kennedy and Slash. Bonham also launched a tribute tour to his father, John Bonham, entitled Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience in 2010, as well as participating in the John Bonham tribute concert Bonzo: The Groove Remains the Same, on 25 September 2010. Both John Bonham and Jason were featured in a Drum magazine special 'rock royalty' edition in October 2010. Bonham performed at the 'Mark and Brian Christmas Show' at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California on 16 December 2010 with Paul Rodgers, Peter Frampton, and Michael Anthony. During much of December 2010, Bonham also assisted Joe Bonamassa in recording a solo album. Black Country Communion released a second album and toured in 2011. Prior to this release Bonham participated in a brief UK tour with singer Paul Rodgers.

Bonham still participates in motocross racing, and received a full endorsement from Kawasaki motorcycles to help purchase equipment for the John Bonham Memorial Camp.

Equipment

  • Ludwig drum kit
  • Remo drumheads
  • Zildjian cymbals
  • Pro-Mark drumsticks
  • DW hardware

Bibliography

  • Bonham, Mick (2003) Bonham by Bonham: My Brother John. London: Icarus Publications. ISBN 978-0-9545717-0-2
  • Bonham, Mick (2005) John Bonham: The Powerhouse Behind Led Zeppelin. London: Southbank Publishing. ISBN 978-1-904915-11-9 (OCLC 61302889)

Songbooks

  • Bonham, Jason; and Whitehill, David (1990) The Disregard of Timekeeping. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7935-0298-1 (OCLC 26124393)

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