Bonzo's Birthday Bash
Celebrates Drummer's 64th
Story by Shawn Perry
How do you celebrate the 64th birthday of one of rock’s most iconic drummers? If you’re Brian Tichy, who’s banged the floorboards with Whitesnake, Foreigner, Bill Idol and MSG, you get on the horn and call in as many world-class drummers as you can. And then you get into the groove.
For the fourth time, Tichy — who holds the distinction of being the first and (so far) only drummer to appear on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show brandishing a speed bag as part of his percussion arsenal — is paying tribute to Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, “the greatest drummer in the greatest band in the world,” with a special concert.
After garnering rave reviews and indisputable adulation for the three previous Bonzo: The Groove Remains The Same shows, Tichy and his partner, Joe Sutton — a renown drummer himself — are putting a spin on the event with Bonzo's Birthday Bash at the House of Blues in Hollywood on Thursday, May 31. The night will be hosted by KLOS DJ Uncle Joe Benson.
The fact that they were able to secure the prestigious Sunset Strip venue and two dozen drummers on Bonham’s birthday was a major coup with a touch of serendipity.
The plan for the evening is to invite one drummer after another up to the stage to play a Led Zeppelin number with the house band, The Moby Dicks. The drum set will be the classic Ludwig Vistalite, an exact replica of the amber five-piece kit played by John Bonham.
At press time, the list of participating drummers includes Steven Adler (Guns 'N Roses), Seven Antonopoulos (Opiate For The Masses, Leaves' Eyes), Carmine Appice (Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, Cactus), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven And Hell, Kill Devil Hill), Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot), Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, Ringo Starr's All Starr Band), Bobby Blotzer (Ratt), Fred Coury (Cinderella), Jimmy D'Anda (Bulletboys), Virgil Donati (Allan Holdsworth, Seven The Hardway) Troy Patrick Farrell (White Lion), Troy Luccketta (Tesla), Ray Luzier (Korn), Khurt Maier (Salty Dog), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Flying Colors), Mark Schulman (Foreigner), Matt Sorum (Velvet Revolver, Guns 'N Roses), Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper), Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa), Simon Wright (AC/DC, Dio) and Yael (Ugly Kid Joe).
Scenes from The Groove Remains The Same, 2011
A crew of esteemed musicians will also be on-hand to jam, including singer Sebastian Bach, bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big), bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner), guitarist Mitch Perry (MSG), bassist Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne) and Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot).
“We’re putting the drums out front, and guitarists and singers to the side,” Tichy says. “Everyone’s cool with it because it’s all about the drummer, you know? So, Sebastian Bach will stand to the side and sing. and I’ll be playing guitar.”
Making the night even spicier will be the guest appearance of producer and engineer Eddie Kramer, who twisted the knobs on several Led Zeppelin albums. According to Tichy, Kramer will share stories about his time in and out of the studio with the band. “He was there,” Tichy reminds me, “He’s got pictures, he remembers the sessions…”
With Whitesnake on hiatus and Bonzo's Birthday Bash filling his schedule until showtime, Tichy is planning to spend the summer promoting a new album with his band S.U.N., featuring singer Sass Jordan, bassist Marty O' Brien and drummer Tommy Stewart. Tichy handles the guitar.
Unfortunately, the drumming guitarist won’t be bringing his speed bag to Bonzo's Birthday Bash. “It’s really heavy and hard to move around,” he says, assuring me he will be using it at future gigs. I have to admit that synchronizing the rhythm of hitting a speed bag with drumming creates a rather unique, percussive sound.
With his aggressive style, it’s possible John Bonham would have been all over the speed bag. Tichy says Carmine Appice, a great friend, powerful peer and mentor to Bonham, loves it. “He’s got a speed bag at his house,” he laughs.