Back in 1982, Jonathan Zazula, better known as Jonny Z, was running a thriving record flea out of East Brunswick, New Jersey. A regional fixture in the space of alternative music and early have culture, Zazula championed the NWoBHM domestically, selling records from the likes of Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Saxon, Raven and other genre pioneers. Zazula even promoted local shows with heavy artists, truly becoming immersed in the culture.
The course of heavy music history would be changed forever however when Jonny Z was handed a demo from a then relatively unknown thrash band out of the Bay Area in California known as Metallica.
No Life ’Til Leather instantly convinced Zazula that he had to work with the band and thus, the enterprising, resourceful metal enthusiast began Megaforce Records to ensure Metallica had a home. Zazula, along with his wife Marsha, would put out Metallica's first two full length studio records in the band's debut Kill 'Em All and the follow-up Ride the Lightning.
Though Metallica would transition to a bigger label in Elektra for their seminal 1986 Master of Puppets release, the Zazulas and Megaforce has already cultivated a thriving metal movement with Megaforce. In 1984, Anthrax would release their debut Fistful of Metal on the label. Coupled with the label's success in Ride the Lightning and Anthrax's introduction, Megaforce went onto propel bands like Testament, Overkill, Exciter, Ace Frehley, Ministry, and King’s X into the lexicon of heavy culture as we now know it.
Today, (February 1st) the Zazula family confirmed that Jon Zazula had passed away at the age of 69. He was said to have passed surround by family and friends. Jon sadly just more than a year after his wife and Megaforce Records partner Marsha Zazula passed away tragically of cancer.
Jon's daughter Rikki Zazula shared the news with the heavy music community.
"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
In 2019, Jon Zazula published his memoir with Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. In an interview with Variety in 2020 to promote the book, Zazula spoke about his career path and the bond with his wife Marsha. “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,” Zazula shared. “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.”
Jon Zazula's memoir, Heavy Tales The Metal. The Music. The Madness. is available - HERE