VIDEO: Howard Debates Whether Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham Is the Greatest Drummer of All Time

Plus, staffer Richard Christy shows off his skills with the drumsticks

September 17, 2020

Howard reflected Monday morning on the unparalleled skills of late Led Zeppelin drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham, who died 40 years ago this month.

“I would credit him with being one of the best drummers of all time,” he said before demonstrating Bonham’s genius by playing listeners the drum beat from Zeppelin’s seminal 1971 cover of “When the Levee Breaks.”

“I think [it’s] one of the greatest drum beats ever … I love it,” Howard continued, explaining how Bonham’s drumming on the song—recorded at the bottom of a stairwell in a British mansion—has since been sampled by dozens of other artists from Beyoncé and Eminem to Beastie Boys and Enigma. Co-host Robin Quivers and even Rolling Stone magazine agreed with Howard’s assessment of Bonzo’s skills, but not every staffer put the late legend atop their list. The Stern Show’s resident fast food and TV expert Jon Hein, for example, argued Rush drummer Neil Peart was in fact the best in the business.

“Bonham is an incredible, amazing, one-of-a-kind drummer. Neil Peart is better. He’s better technically. He is,” Hein insisted.

Howard wasn’t buying it, however. While Jon has long been the show’s go-to guy for “Game of Thrones” recaps, he thought the staffer whose musical opinion probably held the most weight was Richard Christy, who many consider to be a world-class heavy metal drummer himself.

“Are you in agreement that John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham is the greatest drummer who ever lived?” Howard asked Richard.

“Yes, but I would put Neil Peart right next to him,” Richard answered.

After plowing through some technical difficulties, the staffer, butt-chugger, and Charred Walls of the Damned drummer then put on a percussive display of his own, drumming the beat from “When the Levee Breaks,” the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” and the solo from Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” See Richard in action (above).

Later, a caller phoned in and threw his support behind Metallica drummer and recent Stern Show guest Lars Ulrich. Everyone on staff agreed Lars was a fabulous drummer, but Howard wondered if the heavy metal mainstay would cast his own vote for Peart, Bonzo, or perhaps someone else entirely—like Ian Paice from Deep Purple. At that point, executive producer Gary Dell’Abate vowed to get Lars on the phone in the near future to settle the issue once and for all.