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JON ZAZULA, co-founder of legendary metal label MEGAFORCE RECORDS, dead at 69

02-02-2022

Megaforce Records founder Jon “Jonny Z” Zazula has died at the age of 69. He passed away yesterday (Tuesday, February 1) in Florida surrounded by his brother, daughters, granddaughters and friends, according to Variety.

Jon’s wife Marsha, with whom he founded Megaforce, passed away of cancer in January of last year.

The Zazulas‘ daughter Rikki wrote on social media: ” The world lost a true legend today… Our Dad lived a life as fast, hard, heavy, powerful, and, impactful as the music he brought to the world. His passion and persistence fueled the careers of arguably the most influential metal bands, and, industry greats of a generation. To us he was simply daddy… Our father and mother were a powerhouse partnership in love, life, and business. Together they believed in the unbelievable, their passion, rebel perspective, and persistence built an empire from a box of vinyl in a flea market – into a multi platinum selling record label, management company, and publishing house. Although we are devastated he is gone, they are finally reunited. And it feels impossible to imagine a world without him in it. For all of us who knew and loved him … by the way… keep it heavy! RIP daddy you will truly be deeply missed, but, never forgotten…your LegaZ will live on forever, not only in us and your grandchildren, but, in every headbanger on this planet for all of eternity!”

Megaforce is widely credited for launching the career of METALLICA by releasing the band’s first two albums, 1983’s “Kill ‘Em All” and 1984’s “Ride The Lightning”, before METALLICA landed a major label deal with ElektraMegaforce’s roster has also included such artists as ANTHRAXTESTAMENTOVERKILLAce FrehleyMINISTRYKING’S XSTORMTROOPERS OF DEATH and RAVEN.

METALLICA has paid tribute to Jon “Jonny Z” Zazula.

The band shared a moving statement in honor of Jonny shortly after news of his death became public. The statement read: “Heavy music lost one of its great champions today when Jonny Z left this world far too soon.

“In 1982, when no one wanted to take a chance on four kids from California playing a crazy brand of metal, Johnny and Marsha did, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“He was a mentor, a manager, a label head and a father figure to us all … METALLICA would not be who we are or where we are today without Jon Zazula and his wife, Marsha.

“Our love and sympathy go out to Jonny’s children and his grandchildren, whom he cherished and brought to our shows from the time they were in diapers.

“We hope they will be able to take some comfort in knowing that he is reunited with Marsha, and that he helped bring so much incredible music to so many.”

The statement concluded with: “Hopefully there’s a great show goin’ on up there tonight to welcome you! We’ll miss you Jonny“.

In a separate statement, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich said: “Thank you Jonny for taking a chance on these crazy, noisy, uncompromising and undisciplined dudes from NorCal who didn’t know what was up, down or sideways, but who were ready, willing and more than able to fuckin throw it all to the wind and go for it.. Thank you for giving us a sense of belonging and ultimately, a sense of self-worth. I will forever be grateful for your friendship, advice and blind belief that the music we played could be shared with way more people who were just like us…outsiders and misfits!

“Rest In Peace my friend.”

METALLICA frontman James Hetfield stated: “God rest your soul Jonny. My heart is full of gratitude for taking a chance on me and my bandmates.”

Born in 1952, Jonny began his extraordinary journey as a renegade youth who went from living on the streets of the Bronx in New York City, to later working on Wall Street, and eventually (and unexpectedly) transitioning into the music business and discovering METALLICAANTHRAX and others.

After Wall Street, Jonny Z began selling records at a flea market store in 1981 to put food on the table for his family. Dubbed Rock N’ Roll Heaven, the store eventually blossomed into a major record store that influenced the heavy metal movement as we know it today. In the winter of 1982, Jonny Z received an unexpected demo tape from unsigned underground band called METALLICA. Eager and determined to have the music heard by the entire world, Jonny and Marsha founded Megaforce the following year and released “Kill ‘Em All”. Through this release, Megaforce cemented its position as the de-facto music label in America for heavy metal.

Jon’s acclaimed autobiography, “Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived By Jon Zazula”, was released in October 2019. The book tells the story of how the Zazulas ended up signing a band that shaped the sound of heavy metal for decades to come.

“It’s all a blessing when you work hard and you stay smart and you go into the game and then eventually something comes your way and you’re ready for it. And you’re able to jump upon it and ride it,” Jonny told Variety. “We were very  fortunate, Marsha and I, that we have them to choose as a band that became the biggest band in the world. Not to mention a bunch of other great bands that made history.”

Photo credit: Eddie Malluk

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