Music Friday, April 8th

Deborah Bonham on Led Zeppelin, her brother John and playing barefoot

Growing up in the shadow of a rock legend is never easy. But Deborah Bonham, sister of the late legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, has carved out a successful career for herself in the music business earning the respect of her peers and notching up highlight after highlight. These have seen the blues/rock singer perform with Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company, Queen), Van Halen, Humble Pie, Foreigner, Ozzy Osbourne, Nazareth, Jools Holland, Steve Cropper, and Robert Plant. Bad Company also invited Deborah to open for them in USA on their 40th Anniversary Tour where she captivated 5000 strong crowds every night. Her latest album ‘Spirit’ is a classic mix of country, blues, rock, and soul and has met with critical acclaim. Mixed and mastered in Nashville, it features a very special guest appearance from the very same Robert Plant.

Deborah is performing at The Left Bank in Hereford on April 30. With support from The Troy Redfern Band, young guns Raptor and Rocky Road To Ruin. Tickets are available at selected outlets in Hereford and also on the door on the night for £15. Tickets can also be purchased here.

What can the audience in Hereford expect from your performance? DBBNazTourDBJasonAlanWhitePhotos016 2

A lot of fun and energy - we have such a great time on stage - it's powerful, emotional serious and a lot of laughs

Tell us about the members of your band.

Peter Bullick on Guitar - he's an incredible guitarist - can make it heavy, funky but can bring it down to the most breathtaking blues soul - in fact Paul Rodgers (Free and Bad Company) just cited him as one of today's great guitarists.  

On drums is Rich Newman from Rory Gallagher's band along with many others including Steve Marriott, one of my heroes, so just how good is he?? Tough seat to fill with me but Rich does does it and he does it great.  

Bass is Jo Burt. I've known Jo for many years. He was with my nephew Jason in a band called Virginia Wolfe, he then went on to play for Black Sabbath, Freddie Mercury, Tom Robinson. He's an incredible talent in his own right. Apart from being a great bass player, he's a singer-songwriter and has just released a beautiful solo album called 'Indestructible'.  

Gerard Louis on keyboards - again I've known G for many years, he's also played with Paul Rodgers and has been a dear friend of mine since forever.  

They are just such a talented bunch of guys that are at the top of their game - it's an honour to walk on stage with them.  Add to that one is my husband and the rest are like brothers - it works.

When and how did you discover you possessed such a powerful voice?

Blimey I don't know - I don't think about it.  I grew up on the best, I was introduced to the best of music and vocalists there were so when you grow up with that, you don't lightly decide to become a singer, you really do have to cut it.  Provided you sing from the heart, from the soul whether it's a strong voice or a soft one it doesn't matter - you just need to convince people watching you that you mean it and if you do, they will get it...


You’ve suffered a lot of loss in your life. Has music been the one factor that has helped you get through it?

Without a doubt - a lot of my anguish comes out in lyrics in my songs, but animals especially have been a big strength in my life, my dogs and horses have gotten me through so much.  Add to that my husband Peter and the band and our manager Dave Hill - it all works.  I'm at a place in my life now where I really don't want to work with anyone that I don't get… in other words like when people say this manager is incredible, this record label, this whatever… we're not about that now, I work with people I respect and love and who get what we do.. and if they love animals also that works!

Tell us about your work with the charity Racehorse Sanctuary.

I've always loved horses especially racehorses.  I worked for a local yard when I was growing up and I thought all horses were taken care of after racing.  I soon learnt the truth… 5000 horses come out of racing every year… what happens to them?  It's a fact that people don't want to hear.. so many people go to the races.. so many bet, so many don't think what happens to these creatures.  They are treated like a commodity - when they can't earn money anymore they are gotten rid of.  

I sometimes think It would be better for them if they were just put to sleep humanely but so many times they get sold in the sales, passed around from pillar to post and then end up being transported in horrific conditions into central Europe.  Heartbreaking. I swore then that I would do something to help. I work with Moorcroft Racehorse Welfare Centre in Slinfold and I'm a patron of Willows Animal Sanctuary where we have started therapy for troubled kids with troubled animals… it works amazingly and I'm very proud to be a part of that. I have three ex-racehorses at home with me, all rescued, one from a side of a hill in dorset in a terrible state - we named him Bodie after the Free song.

Why is it that you perform bare foot?

Keeps me grounded - I feel safe and can just concentrate on getting in the zone.  Outfits and shoes can distract you… I learnt that a long time ago - wardrobe malfunctions.  Now  I don't have to worry.  Any little thing can take you out of the zone and that is a real nightmare for me - three verses can pass whilst I've worried over a lace being loose or a top being out of place… so I decided years ago to barefoot and my tech Paul Mellers' wife Sharon Mellers designed my dresses and outfits so that I never had to worry again and just concentrate on the music!  She's quite amazing. DeborahBonhamCharmot 7996

We’ve seen a video of you singing Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ which is a really difficult song to sing. You’ve also performed Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’. Do you like to challenge yourself vocally? 

Not really, they are just great songs.  'Superstition' was difficult.. I did it because our producer of 'The Old Hyde' album and bass player Mo Foster played with Jeff Beck for years and they did a version of this and he thought it would be cool for us to do a version to put on the album .  But to be honest it's very hard to cover Stevie, his playing, drumming, singing…he's pretty stand alone and that was a challenge and not one I'm sure I nailed!  'Maybe I'm Amazed' - one of my favourite songs… but I only did that because I did the Ronnie Lane Tribute at the Albert Hall and Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie) who was my drummer at the time suggested we did that song as Ronnie with The Faces used to do it.  It was a song that just worked for me - it was a joy to sing. But other than that I don't really do covers per se, but there are the odd songs that are just a joy to sing.. 'Stay With Me Baby' being one of them...

Is it true your brother John did not want you to go into the music industry?

Yes, he'd seen how this industry was and it was no place for his kid sister and he was right - looking back he was so right.  But you can't deny what is in your heart and I'm sure now he'd get up and play with me… I've survived it, it's been hell at times and incredibly tough but my driving force has always been to do the Bonham name proud and when someone like Paul Rodgers asks you to get up on stage and sing a duet with them, or Dan McCaferty from Nazareth sings 'Stay With Me Baby' with you - the only duet he's ever performed, or Ann Peebles wants to sing the amazing song she wrote '(I Can't Stand The Rain') with you and Robert Plant plays on your album, you sort of figure it can't get any better and I must be ok?  I might not have had all the number ones, the massive success, but what I have had is respect from my peers which has been the ultimate success for me. I survived through it all and I survived it well and am extremely happy where I'm at.  To me that means everything.

How did you feel when your nephew Jason took your brother’s place in the Led Zeppelin reunion gig in 2007? This must have been a night of mixed emotions?

Oh that was incredible.  It wasn't mixed emotions, may have been before the show - of course you can't help remember.  But Jason nailed it, oh did he nail it and it became a slightly different band… it was older, it was a different era, the soul was the same as was the song… but the feel had slightly changed.  He did an incredible job - his Dad would have been so very proud, sorry IS so very proud - as am I.

Can you tell us about story of how you struggled to get in to the reunion gig?

That wasn't the reunion gig, that was Knebworth 1979.  There's a beautiful chapter dedicated to it in my other late brother Mick Bonham's book 'John Bonham: The Powerhouse Behind Led Zeppelin'.  It's very funny and a beautiful book that is the only book about John that is true and how it was. Available at all good book shops!!

What do you think John’s legacy is? 

I think if he has inspired young kids to play the drums he would be so pleased about that just like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich did for him… that would be John's legacy - the inspiration he has created.

Is it true that you finish most of your sets with a version of ‘Rock and Roll’?

Not always. It was something that just came after a third encore at a show some years back and we didn't have any more songs left.. the audience had been so wonderful to us we just decided to do it - off the cuff.  It wasn't very good really and I wasn't that proud.  Everyone thinks it's an easy straight forward song to play/perform but you couldnt be further from the truth - it's Led Zeppelin for goodness sakes.. it's got musical clever twists.  It was after that we went and rehearsed and learnt it so if that ever happened again, we'd do the band proud.  Now and again, if the crowd is with us and has listened and loved the 2 hours of our music that we've played, we might encore with that…or another… 

What was it like opening for Bad Company on their 40th anniversary tour and playing in front of thousands of people in the US?

Amazing because I so love Bad Company, but really no different to playing to thousands at Fairport Convention's Cropready Festival, playing with Robert in Malta, and with Paul at the Royal Albert Hall. You have to get out there, do your bit and mean it and God willing they'll love you...


Do you want to write for Herefordshire Live? Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or say