Ronald Belford Scott was born on 9 July 1946 at the Fyfe Jamieson Maternity Hospital, Forfar, Scotland to Charles Belford (“Chick”) and Isabelle (“Isa”) Scott, and grew up in Kirriemuir. A younger brother Derek was born in 1949. The Scott family emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1952 where they initially lived in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine. It was at Sunshine Primary School that he received his nickname; there was already a classmate with the name Ronald and as he had recently arrived from Bonnie Scotland he was dubbed “Bon” and the name stuck. A second brother, Graeme, was born in 1953. Bon was the oldest of Derek, Graeme, and Valarie. Bon did have an older brother born before him named Sandy Scott but he died shortly after his birth.
In 1956, the family moved to Fremantle, Western Australia and Bon joined the associated Fremantle Scots Pipe Band, learning the drums. Scott attendedJohn Curtin College of the Arts until he dropped out at the age of 15 and spent a short time in Fremantle Prison’s assessment centre and nine months at the Riverbank Juvenile Institution relating to charges of giving a false name and address to the police, having escaped legal custody, having unlawful carnal knowledge and stealing twelve gallons of petrol. He attempted to join the Australian Army but was rejected for being deemed as “socially maladjusted.”
Scott’s vocals were inspired by his idol, Little Richard. After working as a postman, bartender and truck packer, Scott started his first band, The Spektors, in 1964 as drummer and occasional lead singer. Two years later the Spektors merged with another local band, The Winstons, and formed The Valentines, in which Scott was co-lead singer with Vince Lovegrove. The Valentines recorded several songs written by George Young of The Easybeats including “Every Day I Have to Cry” which made the local top 5. In 1970, after gaining a place on the National Top 30 with their single “Juliette”, the Valentines disbanded due to artistic differences after a much-publicised drug scandal.
Scott moved to Adelaide in 1970 and joined the progressive rock band Fraternity. Fraternity released the LPs Livestock and Flaming Galah before touring the UK in 1971, where they changed their name to “Fang”. During this time they played support slots for Status Quo and Geordie, whose front man, Brian Johnson, became the lead singer of AC/DC after Scott’s death.
In 1973, just after returning to Australia from another tour of the UK, Fraternity went on hiatus. Scott took a day job at the Wallaroo fertiliser plant and began singing with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a loose collective of musicians helmed by Peter Head (née Beagley) from Headband, who explains “Headband and Fraternity were in the same management stable and we both split about the same time so the logical thing was to take members from both bands and create a new one…the purpose of the band was for songwriters to relate to each other and experiment with songs, so it was a hotbed of creativity”. Other ex-Fraternity members also played with the band as did Glen Shorrock pre Little River Band. During this time, Head also helped Scott with his original compositions.
Vince Lovegrove said “Bon would go to Peter’s home after a day shovelling shit, and show him musical ideas he had had during his day’s work. Bon’s knowledge of the guitar was limited, so Peter began teaching him how to bridge chords and construct a song. One of the songs from these sessions was a beautiful ballad called Clarissa, about a local Adelaide girl. Another was the country-tinged Bin Up in the Hills Too Long, which for me was a sign of things to come with Bon’s lyrics; simple, clever, sardonic, tongue-in-cheek…
In return, Scott recorded vocals for Head’s “Round & Round & Round” and country ballad “Carey Gully”. Head released these original recordings in 1996, also teaming up with producer Ted Yanni, another old friend of Scott’s, to create an entirely new backing for Round & Round & Round that more accurately reflected the original intentions Head had. Long out of print, and massively bootlegged, this EP finally got an official digital release in June 2010. Unrecorded original compositions of Scott’s, “Bin Up In The Hills Too Long” and “Clarissa” have been recorded by Head on his Peter Head & The Mount Lofty Rangers album, also released in digital format only in 2010.
“About 11 pm on 3 May 1974, at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, during a rehearsal with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a very drunk, distressed and belligerent Bon Scott had a raging argument with a member of the band. Bon stormed out of the venue, threw a bottle of Jack Daniels on to the ground, then screamed off on his Suzuki 550 motorbike. Scott suffered serious injuries from the ensuing motorcycle accident, spending 3 days in a coma and a further 18 days in hospital. Vince Lovegrove and his wife, by then running a booking/management agency, gave Scott odd jobs such as putting up posters and painting the office during his recovery, and shortly after introduced him to AC/DC who were on the lookout for a new lead singer.
“There was a young, dinky little glam band from Sydney that we both loved called AC/DC…Before another AC/DC visit, George Young phoned me and said the band was looking for a new singer. I immediately told him that the best guy for the job was Bon. George responded by saying Bon’s accident would not allow him to perform, and that maybe he was too old. Nevertheless I had a meeting with Malcolm and Angus, and suggested Bon as their new singer. They asked me to bring him out to the Pooraka Hotel that night, and to come backstage after the show. When he watched the band, Bon was impressed, and he immediately wanted to join them, but thought they may be a bit too inexperienced and too young. After the show, backstage, Bon expressed his doubts about them being “able to rock”. The two Young brothers told Bon he was “too old to rock”. The upshot was that they had a jam session that night in the home of Bon’s former mentor, Bruce Howe, and at the end of the session, at dawn, it was obvious that AC/DC had found a new singer. And Bon had found a new band.
Like Scott, Malcolm Young and his younger brother Angus Young of AC/DC were born in Scotland before emigrating to Australia in their childhood with their family.
Fraternity later reformed and replaced Scott with Jimmy Barnes.