On This Day: AC/DC Lost Frontman Bon Scott in 1980

On February 19, 1980, AC/DC frontman Bon Scott was found dead after a night out with friends at the age of 33. “For us, it was like losing a member of your family,” said AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. “It’s very, very difficult to go through something like that. Not only is it your friend, it’s also somebody you’ve been working with all that time.”

For six years, Scott fronted AC/DC through seven albums to their final with him, Highway to Hell, in 1979. Within his short time in AC/DC, Scott still left his indelible mark on the band’s catalog.

Born on July 9, 1946, in Kirriemuir, Scotland, Scott’s family emigrated to Australia in 1952. By the time he was 15, Scott left school and took on odd jobs while pursuing music. Before joining AC/DC, Scott formed The Spektors in the early 1960s. After the band changed its name to The Valentines, Scott, who was mostly drumming, moved to the front as a vocalist. The Valentines hit the Top 30 in Australia with a song Scott co-wrote, “Juliette,” before disbanding in 1970.

Scott then joined the band Fraternity and remained with them from 1970 through 1973 and the band’s first two albums, Livestock from 1971 and Flaming Galah a year later.

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While Scott was chauffeuring bands to gigs for $10 a night, he first connected with AC/DC before replacing the band’s first singer Dave Evans. “This was the first band I worked with,” Scott said in 1976 after joining AC/DC two years earlier.

[RELATED: 4 AC/DC Classics Written by Bon Scott]

“They knew I was sort of a screamer and they knew I was out of work and they hated the guy they had singing for them then,” added Scott, “so they offered me a job. I always knew I was something other than a worker.”

Scott played his first show with AC/DC on October 5, 1974, at the Brighton Le-Sands Masonic Hall in New South Wales, Australia.

With Scott, the band released their debut High Voltage, and follow-up T.N.T. in 1975. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap followed in 1976, along with Let There Be Rock (1977) and Powerage (1978). When AC/DC released their final album with Scott, Highway to Hell, the band finally broke through in the United States and played their final show with Scott at Gaumont Theatre on January 27, 1980, in Southampton, England.

HOLLYWOOD – CIRCA 1977: Singer Bon Scott, who died in early 1980, belts out a number circa 1977 in Hollywood, California. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young can be seen in the background. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The band was already working on their follow-up to Highway to Hell, which would become Back in Black when died. Scott was found dead in his friend Alistair Kinnear’s parked car in London. His death was due to “acute alcohol poisoning” and classified as “death by misadventure” in the coroner’s report.

Kinnear, who had been out with Scott that evening said he couldn’t wake him after partying and left him in his car overnight to sober up. Some mystery always shrouded the night Scott died since original AC/DC drummer Colin Burgess, who remembered seeing Scott at the bar the night he died and said that he appeared sober when he left.

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind AC/DC’s Bon Scott Tribute “Hells Bells”]

AC/DC was close to ending the band following Scott’s death but decided to continue. Brian Johnson replaced Scott and their 1980 album, Back in Black became a tribute to their fallen singer.

“We wanted just a simple black cover,” said Young. “We wouldn’t have even done him justice in words. Even the bell in the beginning of ‘Hell’s Bells’ was our little tribute.”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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