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

John Bonham

It wasn’t simple to convince John Bonham to join Led Zeppelin. The drummer hadn’t had a big break yet, but his forceful approach was catching attention in the British rock scene. When Page and Grant approached Bonham about joining their new band, he already had a proposal from Joe Cocker.

“I got so excited 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,'” Robert Plant recalled in Led Zeppelin in Their Own Words after learning Page and Grant were pursuing his Band of Joy bandmate. “He wasn’t easily convinced,” Plant continued. “He said, ‘Well, I’m all right here, aren’t I?'” He’d never earned the kind of money he was getting from Tim Rose. So I had to try to persuade him.”

“I had suggested to Jimmy Page that the drummer he’d lined up was just nowhere near the dynamism,” Plant said in an interview with Rolling Stone. John Bonham, he emphasized, was a different thing altogether. As it turned out, Bonham was being swayed by another voice discouraging him from joining Led Zeppelin: his wife, Pat.

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

Bonham didn’t have to accept or deny the offer right now because he still had a position in Tim Rose’s band on hold for him. Page, on the other hand, had a contractual responsibility to bring The New Yardbirds to Scandinavia in September 1968. Because the band performed together for the first time in August, they had to make a decision. In the end, Bonham declined Cocker’s offer, preferring Zeppelin’s music, forgoing his seat in Rose’s band.

After the New Yardbirds tour, the band agreed on their title, Led Zeppelin. A rapid signing to Atlantic Records came about, mainly based on Page’s earlier success with The Yardbirds. It provided Led Zeppelin with a swift injection of cash. It also gave them the green light to make their debut studio album. Pat Bonham would finally earn her special drum solo from John, ‘Pat’s Delight,’ despite steering him away from the group.

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