Megaforce Records Founder Jon ‘Jonny Z’ Zazula Has Died at 69

Jon Zazula, founder of Megaforce Records, has died at 69. The news came from a post on his daughter Rikki Zazula's Facebook.

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!

Zazula founded Megaforce Records in the early 1980s with his wife, Marsha, and helped jumpstart the career of the legendary Metallica when he signed them. He'd been given a copy of the band's No Life 'Til Leather demo by a customer at his record stand at a New Jersey flea market and contacted the band in hopes of working together.

"When I put it on, it was like lightning. It was like I got hit by, I don't know what, like a beam. And I listened to the whole thing was like flipping out," Zazula told us in October of 2019. "This is America's answer — I just said to Motorhead and the new wave of British heavy metal — this would be the start of America's own scene in that vein."

"I basically said to Marsha, 'I don't know what I'm gonna do, but I'm gonna do something with this band. I gotta be part of the legacy.' I knew there was gonna be a legacy."

He'd been booking local shows in New Jersey at the time, with bands including Venom, Raven, Anvil and Manowar, and told Lars Ulrich he'd send Metallica money to rent a U-Haul to come perform in New York. Eventually, he put out the band's first two full-length albums — 1983's Kill 'Em All and 1984's Ride the Lightning.

Throughout his career, Zazula also worked with notable names in heavy music such as Anthrax, Testament, Overkill, Mercyful Fate, Ministry and more. Check out our 2019 interview with Zazula to hear more about his iconic musical endeavors below. The rest of his metal journey is detailed in his memoir, Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness.

Loudwire sends our condolences to Zazula's loved ones — may he rest in peace.

Gary Schwartz
Gary Schwartz

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