Rock

John Bonham’s favourite drummer, according to Robert Plant

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John Bonham, the iconic drummer of Led Zeppelin, revolutionized the realms of rock and heavy metal with his dynamic drumming style that married aggressive energy with extraordinary skill. During the tumultuous rise of Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s, Bonham emerged as a virtuoso in his field.

Highlighting Bonham’s exceptional prowess, a tale told by Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, Robert Plant, comes to mind.

In this story, Jimi Hendrix, the guitar virtuoso, was in awe of Bonham’s drumming talent. Hendrix once remarked to Plant, marveling at Bonham’s skill, “Your drummer’s right foot is like a flurry of castanets.”

Esteemed for his drumming might, Bonham was also known for honoring the legends before him, particularly Gene Krupa, who he greatly admired. In 1998, Bonham’s fellow bandmate, Robert Plant, shed light on another of Bonham’s influences.

Plant shared in an interview with Ray Gun, “Let me tell you, Bonzo was a huge fan of Bernard Purdie, the master of funk drumming. Truly, Purdie.” This admiration is evident when you listen carefully to Led Zeppelin’s hit ‘Fool In The Rain’ from 1979. In the track, Bonham plays a variant of the intricate ‘Purdie Shuffle,’ giving the song its unique rhythmic drive and vibrant flair.

The ‘Purdie Shuffle,’ famously created by Bernard Purdie during his youth, was designed to echo “the rhythmic flow of a train in motion.” It’s a nuanced blues shuffle that incorporates subtle, syncopated beats on the snare drum. This distinctive style is showcased in tracks like Steely Dan’s ‘Babylon Sisters’ and ‘Home at Last.’

Bonham, among others, drew significant inspiration from this technique, with echoes of it in several major hits, including The Police’s ‘Walking on the Moon,’ Toto’s ‘Rosanna,’ and of course, ‘Fool In The Rain.’ Bonham’s connection to Purdie’s style can be traced back to his visits to a drum store run by Mike Evans, where he joined other musicians like Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward. Evans would often showcase Purdie’s drumming techniques to those who frequented the store, including Bonham.

Ward reminisced, “I’d be mesmerized by Mike’s ‘Purdie’ demonstrations. He introduced us all to Bernard Purdie’s unrivaled hi-hat techniques.” He continued, “Bonham would then give it a try and somehow transform it. His bass drum spoke the universal language of rhythm. Yet, I admit, I still haven’t mastered it quite like he did.”

Bonham’s style was remarkably fluid, clearly reflecting the influence of the greats he admired. Interestingly, while he held Purdie in high esteem, it was Krupa who Bonham revered as the ultimate drumming deity, even calling him “God.”

Krupa was a trailblazer in drumming, setting a benchmark for many contemporary musicians. Echoing this sentiment, Neil Peart of Rush once stated, “Gene Krupa essentially laid the groundwork for rock drumming. Without him, there would be no Keith Moon.”

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