His dad was wild and crazy and drank himself to death by consuming the equivalent of 40 shots of vodka.
But drummer Jason Bonham never had issues with his father, legendary Led Zeppelin percussionist John Bonham.
"I lost him when I was 14," said Bonham. "I hadn't reached that adolescence 'I hate you, Dad' kind of arguing or butting heads over different things. He left me when he was my idol. He still is there. I actually challenged someone on the Internet who made a really bad comment about my dad, saying he was just a drunk who played metal. I'm very protective of my father."
The drummer, now 44, is commemorating the 30th anniversary of his father's passing with a tour he's calling Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience.
It's not a straightforward concert but "more of a show," he said, put together with the producers of a similar Beatles production, "Rain."
"It's my personal journey on how much Led Zeppelin has meant to me." Between songs, Bonham will talk about his father and share some of his own Zep experiences. Plus, thanks to video magic, he'll duet with his dad on drums on "Moby Dick."
Working with four little-known musicians, Bonham will not try to copy his dad's drumming note for note.
"I'm not John, I'm Jason," said the drummer, who will perform his first U.S. gig with LZ Experience Tuesday in Minneapolis. "I'll be doing what my dad taught me well, which is how you play with emotion. I never play the same thing twice."
Endorsed by Robert Plant
Of course, Bonham would rather be touring with the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin, with whom he famously performed on Dec. 10, 2007, at London's O2 arena for a one-time reunion concert. The drummer hasn't heard from guitarist Jimmy Page or bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones about his LZ Experience. But he did receive the backing of Zep vocalist Robert Plant.
Said Bonham: "He came on a radio station with me. The DJ tried to make something out of me touring without him and Robert jumped straight in and said, 'Jason doesn't need any excuse or permission. ... He has my blessings.'"
There was considerable talk last year of Page, Jones and Bonham rehearsing and touring with another singer.
"We never talked about a Zeppelin tour without Robert Plant," the drummer said. "There was possible talk of a tour with a new band and singer. It was a great time for me to be able to play and write with John Paul. I was absolutely in heaven. There were five or six [new] songs that were ready for vocals."
Why the project fell apart requires an explanation from Page or Jones, Bonham said. "There was a lot of negativity on the Internet," he said. "There was press outside taking pictures of whoever walked in [to the rehearsal]. No one gave it a chance to breathe. But I had a great time."
Meanwhile, Bonham, who did a stint in Foreigner and appeared on the 2006 VH1 show "Supergroup" with Ted Nugent and Sebastian Bach, is part of another new all-star band, Black Country Communion, with guitarist Joe Bonamassa, singer/bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper). The band released its debut in September, may tour this winter and possibly record a second album.
Is there still a chance of more Zeppelin performances by Page, Plant, Jones and Jason?
"If you had asked me that five years ago, I would have said no, but it happened," Bonham said. "So I never say never."
He said he occasionally badgers Plant about the band's future.
Plant's response: "'Jason, do we have to talk about that?' I say, 'Well, yeah, because I love it.' He said to me, 'Jason, you played fantastic at the O2 and your dad would be so, so proud. But to me, your dad was in Led Zeppelin, not you. The four of us made Led Zeppelin. We decided to stop.'"
"I do get it," Bonham said.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719