Months before his death 38 years ago on 19 February 1980, Bon Scott had expressed a desire to marry, have kids and buy a home. In the 1994 book Highway To Hell, Australian author Clinton Walker wrote that ‘privately, Bon was talking a lot about settling down… he wanted to buy a house somewhere’.
In fact his Miami lover Holly X, interviewed in my 2017 book Bon: The Last Highway, said she believed Bon was going to pop the question if she had travelled with him to Australia in the summer of 1979/80. Instead they drifted apart – Holly had fallen for someone else, another musician; Bon could sense her emotional distance – and she never made the trip. Bon went to Australia by himself. He was dead within just a couple of months.
Bon’s musician friend Peter Head, who saw him in Australia that summer, told Uncut magazine: ‘He was happy, but said he wanted to settle down and have kids one day, even though he had finally found a band that allowed him to make music, make money and have fun. We were woken up the next morning… I was in bed with one woman and he was across the room with another. He leapt up saying, “Oh shit, I’ve got to catch a plane”, and ran out the door. That was it.’
Could Bon have already had children?
Head was sure he had, telling Billboard in another interview of an incident in the early 1970s: ‘On his last day in Australia [before leaving with his pre-AC/DC band Fraternity for England], Bon went to visit two women in the Melbourne maternity ward, they both had children and he accepted them both as being his children. On the day he went to visit the women they were unknown to each other, he kept it secret. But there are at least two kids in Melbourne that are his sons. I’m sure there are gonna be others that pop up claiming to be his kids and they might be, who knows. He was pretty prolific in that department.’
A friend of Bon's from Melbourne, Mary Renshaw, denied there were two kids, though admitted ‘Bon did one day confide that he’d just been to hospital to visit a woman who had given birth to his baby. “I’m a dad,” Bon revealed. And they never talked about it again.’
It's a question I'm asked time and time again: Did Bon have children?
The responsible answer is this: over the years a couple of individuals have claimed to be his son, yet no DNA tests have been conducted. Until such time as a DNA test is conducted, no one can ever know for sure.
The latest claimant, Dave Stevens, has been very active in the media recently, alleging he is the son of Bon Scott.
Stevens was born to a woman called Diane Ellis, who died in 2016 and was apparently 16 when her supposed encounter with Bon happened (though I have read 15 on social media and heard even younger through the grapevine).
Yet Stevens, Bon's alleged son, would never know Bon while he was alive, the boy having been given up for adoption to a Geelong family. Stevens says he only found out about his alleged paternity when he was 21, long after Bon had passed away. It was his birth mother, Ellis, who told him his real father was Bon Scott. Bon's name is not on the birth certificate, by Stevens's own admission.
Despite protestations to the contrary, Stevens now adopts and trades on the ‘son of Bon Scott’ tag as a performer in his own right. He is writing a book that will be published later this year. He was the guest of honour for a Bon Scott luncheon in Fremantle, Western Australia, this month. He doesn’t believe he needs to take a DNA test and claims he has no financial motivation in embracing the sobriquet ‘Son of Bon'.
‘I'm not curious, I know I am his son,’ he says. ‘No one who has met me has doubted it.’
All well and good. That’s his prerogative. But writing as a Bon Scott biographer, there are some questions I would ask before accepting unequivocally that Bon was Stevens’s father. Hopefully some answers or clarifications might be forthcoming in the book.
Now I wouldn't want to diminish in any way the importance of knowing one's own parents. My own brother is an adopted Vietnamese orphan from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) who never knew the names of his real father and mother after the Vietnam War. He came to Australia in 1975 and has gone through his entire life with an English name and a made-up birthdate. I know how much it would mean to him to have some answers to questions that will probably never be answered. But from what I've read so far of Stevens's claims to being Bon's son, I'm yet to be convinced on the available information. I'm very open to hearing more.
In June 2017 Stevens told ABC Radio Melbourne's Libbi Gorr that his mother and Bon hooked up after ‘a Valentines gig up in Sydney'. If as reported Stevens is 50 years old, and if his birthday is September 22 as it says on his Facebook page, then the gig must have happened some time in or around January 1967.
Delivery of a child from conception to birth normally takes nine months, does it not?
So what was the gig and what was the specific date? Is there a poster or advertisement of the gig that can help corroborate Ellis's claim that she slept with Bon after a Valentines concert? What information is there that supports the idea Stevens is Bon's son through Bon actually being in the vicinity of Diane Ellis?
According to the excellent Australian music history website Milesago.com, The Valentines, a West Australian band, got their first record contract in March 1967, with Perth's Clarion Records, releasing the single ‘Every Day I Have To Cry' in May 1967. They only travelled to the eastern seaboard of Australia in July 1967. That trip was to Melbourne, Victoria, after winning the Perth heats of Hoadley’s ‘Battle of the Sounds’. They moved as a band to Melbourne in October 1967.
So how did Bon get to Sydney in January 1967? Unless I am mistaken – and I'm very happy to be corrected if there is any evidence to suggest otherwise – he was in Perth that month.
More perplexingly, on Stevens's band's Facebook page, it clearly states: ‘In 1967 Bon Scott's star was rising while his son was adopted out after a brief encounter with a young girl in the Victorian town of Ballarat.' Am I reading that right? Does it say Ballarat? Isn't it supposed to be Sydney? What's the story? Sydney or Ballarat?
Either way, it confirms Stevens's birth year was 1967 not 1968. If he were born in 1968, Stevens would be turning 50 this September, and be 49 at time of writing (19 February 2018).
I'll extend Stevens the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps his
mother got it wrong. Maybe she mixed up Bon with someone else. Perhaps Bon wasn’t playing with The Valentines but he was in Sydney. Okay, the obvious question is what was he doing there? What would bring him to New South Wales in January 1967?
Walker’s Highway To Hell, a great book on Bon’s early years and the go-to biographical account of the period before he joined AC/DC, only mentions The Valentines playing a gig that month in Western Australia, at Perth’s Supreme Court Gardens in front of 3000 people. Nothing about a visit to Sydney. Instead, Walker has the band visiting Sydney in March/April 1968 during an east coast tour. That's more than a whole year later.
Surely to accept the claim Stevens is Bon’s son requires more information beyond him thinking he looks like Bon, other people thinking he looks like Bon, or simply having Bon's mannerisms or his smile? Yes, there are people who are convinced Stevens is the son of Bon Scott and they may be right. But to my eyes Stevens actually looks more like a 1980s-era Stevie Wright. Have a look at the pictures above taken from public posts on Facebook. Where were The Easybeats playing in January 1967? England. Which would seemingly rule out Wright as the father. Seemingly.
So if Stevens is so convinced he's Bon's son why doesn't he just take a DNA test and prove it once and for all? Why the reluctance? He admitted to Libbi Gorr in the ABC Radio Melbourne interview that he'd tried to reach out to Bon's two brothers through a mutual friend but ‘not got a response'.
I'd be as happy as anyone to know Australia's greatest rock legend had a true son. I'm sure a lot of fans would. I wish Stevens all the best in his quest to know his real father, whether it's Bon or someone else.
But take the test and settle it.
BON: THE LAST HIGHWAY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BON SCOTT AND AC/DC'S BACK IN BLACK is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia, FNAC and hundreds of other retailers around the world.
Jesse Fink is the author of Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC's Back In Black and The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC. For more information about Bon, click HERE or click the book covers below to be directed to editions in your preferred territory and language.