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 Evans, 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, February 19, 1980, Kinnear came out to find a lifeless Scott. He was just 33 years old. 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

His family launched the first-ever official Bon Scott website which now serves as a destination for fans keen to discover more about the legendary singer and songwriter. AC/DC’s current lineup have announced their first tour since 2016. Tickets are available here and here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

5 Comments so far

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  1. Hacksaw
    #1 Hacksaw 20 February, 2021, 19:39

    I must contradict you on one small part of the Bon Scott story – the original lead singer of AC/DC was Dave Evans not Dave Young. He has a web site .

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  2. Yvette
    #2 Yvette 20 February, 2022, 05:00

    I was at the “Rock or Bust” CONCERT on 9/25/2015 @ AT&T Park San Francisco. Everything I hoped it would be…The Undeniable Best Hard ROCK ‘N ROLL BAND of All Time… Angus Young Hot on Lead Guitar and Animated as Guitarist as Bon Scott always was as a Vocalist. Of course, when I saw Band in San Francisco by then Brian Johnson had taken the ‘MIKE’ as Vocalist. I am sorry that Never had the Opportunity to see Bon Scott In-Person. It is just a Riot to watch Bon and Angus in Performing..
    Couldn’t put on more of an Animated Show as the Top of the Chart Musicians of All Time from the BEST Rock ‘n Roll Band in History. I Applaud those Scottish Entertainers from Australia…
    I have been to many ROCK CONCERTS and AC/DC is at the Top of the Rock Pyramid…
    ***NONE BETTER***!!!

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  3. TyStick
    #3 TyStick 20 February, 2023, 09:49

    Highway To Hell is my favorite album by AC/DC. It was also Bon’s last album with AC/DC. Brian did a great job stepping in but what could have been if Bon had lived? Maybe AC/DC could have been the Greatest Rock and Roll band.

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  4. Rain
    #4 Rain 20 February, 2024, 00:26

    Saw them at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The bill was; AC/DC; Aerosmith; Walter Egan; Foreigner; Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush.
    August 5, 1978.

    It was a long day at the ballpark but one I’ll never forget.

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