Why John Bonham’s wife wanted him to “stay away” from Robert Plant

Getting John Bonham to join Led Zeppelin wasn’t an easy task. Although the drummer hadn’t yet seen much success, the British rock culture was beginning to take note of his strong approach. Bonham had a proposition from Joe Cocker on the table when he was approached by Jimmy Page and manager Peter Grant to join their new group.

When Robert Plant learned that Page and Grant were pursuing his Band of Joy bandmate, he remembered Led Zeppelin in Their Own Words. Plant said, “I got so enthusiastic that I hitched back to Oxford and chased after John, got him to one side at a gig and said, ‘Look mate, you’ve got to join The Yardbirds, He said, ‘Well I’m all right here, aren’t I?’ He’d never earned the sort of bread he was getting with Tim Rose. So I had to try and persuade him.”

Plant told Rolling Stone afterward. As it happened, Bonham’s wife Pat was another voice in his ear, attempting to dissuade him from joining Led Zeppelin. “I had suggested to Jimmy Page that the drummer that he’d lined up was just nowhere near the dynamism of — John Bonham was a totally different thing altogether.”

He recalled, “And so once John’s wife finally gave him permission to come to a rehearsal because Pat always said, ‘Keep away from Plant, because you’re just going to end up broke and in trouble,’ so when the two of us drove down to London in John’s mum’s van, which we borrowed, in that room … I knew that I was in a room full of giants, really, and that was it.”

Bonham’s place in Tim Rose’s band remained reserved, thus he was under no need to accept or reject the offer right away. However, Page was bound by contract to tour Scandinavia with The New Yardbirds in September 1968. There had to be a choice because August was the band’s first performance together. In the end, Bonham chose to turn down Cocker’s offer and renounce his position in Rose’s band because he thought Zeppelin’s music was better.

Following the New Yardbirds tour, the band decided to go with Led Zeppelin as their name. Based in large part on Page’s prior success with The Yardbirds, he quickly signed with Atlantic Records, which provided Led Zeppelin with a swift cash infusion and the go-ahead to begin recording their debut studio album. Even though she first tried to talk John out of joining the group, Pat Bonham would later receive her special drum solo from him, “Pat’s Delight.”



Leave a Comment