Remembering AC/DC’s Bon Scott, 1946-1980

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Bon Scott (far right) with his AC/DC bandmates on the ‘Highway to Hell’ cover.

The lead singer who helped propel AC/DC to international fame has been dead longer than he was alive. Yet he remains atop or close to it on the honor roll of greatest hard rock singers ever, his legend looming at least as large if not more so in death than it was in life.

He was born Ronald Belford Scott in Scotland on July 9, 1946. When he was six years old his family moved to Australia. (Similarly, his AC/DC bandmates Malcolm and Angus Young were also born in Scotland and emigrated to Australia in their youth.) He got the nickname Bon – from Bonnie, Scotland, his previous home – to avoid confusion with a classmate also named Ronald, and learned how to play the drums. As a teen he did time in a juvenile institution and was rejected by the Australian military for being “socially maladjusted” – ideal qualifications for becoming a rock musician.

From 1966 on, Scott played and sang in such bands as the Spektors and the Valentines – who recorded a number of songs by George Young of the Easybeats, older brother of Malcolm and Angus – and Fraternity (which toured the U.K. and opened for Geordie, whose singer Brian Johnson would go on to replace Scott in AC/DC).

Related: The AC/DC family was rocked with two deaths in 2017, Malcolm Young and George Young

When AC/DC parted ways with singer Dave Young, a mutual friend suggested Bon to George Young, who wondered if he was too much older than the rest of the young new band and not a good vocal fit. Despite initial misgivings all around, the combination proved ideal. Soon after the classic rock band recorded their debut album. By 1979 and their sixth album, Highway To Hell, AC/DC had broken through internationally as a premier hard rock band.

A few weeks after finishing a U.K. tour, Scott went out for a night of drinking at the London club Music Machine. A friend, Alistair Kinnear, drove Scott home with him. When they arrived he couldn’t rouse Scott from sleep, so he reclined his seat to let him sleep off his intoxication. The next day Kinnear came out to find a lifeless Scott. It’s unclear whether Scott died of the officially listed cause of alcohol poisoning or choked on his own vomit. But his certificate sadly but appropriately reads “death by misadventure.”

AC/DC with Bon Scott live in 1978 – Whole Lotta Rosie from Banjo Music on Vimeo.

Related: How AC/DC moved on after Scott’s passing

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