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R.I.P. Jon Zazula, Megaforce Records Founder Who Helped Launch Metallica’s Career Dies at 69

The legendary metal figure was also essential to the careers of Anthrax, Overkill, and more

Jon Zazula
Jon Zazula, via Adrenaline PR

    Jon Zazula, the legendary founder of Megaforce Records, has died at age 69. Sadly, his passing comes just one year after the death of his wife, Marsha, who co-founded the iconic metal label with her husband.

    According to Variety, a rep for Megaforce confirmed that Jon Zazula passed away on Tuesday (February 1st) in Florida, where he was surrounded by his brother, daughters, and granddaughters, as well as a number of friends and associates.

    Known as “Jonny Z,” Zazula was a major force in the metal world, helping to launch the careers of Metallica, Anthrax, and many other bands. He and Marsha essentially founded Megaforce in order to sign Metallica to their first record deal, releasing the band’s groundbreaking 1983 debut album, Kill ‘Em All. The thrash titans stuck with Megaforce for their sophomore effort, 1984’s Ride the Lightning, before moving over to major label Elektra for 1986’s Master of Puppets.

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    Anthrax, meanwhile, released their first five albums through Megaforce, and returned to the label for their two most recent LPs, Worship Music and For All Kings.

    Heavy Consequence spoke with Jon Zazula in 2019 upon the release of his autobiography, Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. On his memory of first hearing Metallica’s demo, he told us, “I basically said, ‘What the f**k!’ It was just so amazing. I stood there stunned, because music is my life. Everything was going off in my head, like this was the answer to America, just from the demo. And I said I’ve got to get involved with this.”

    Among the other acts who’ve released albums via Megaforce over the years are Testament, Ministry, Overkill, Bad Brains, and more.

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    “We were like family,” Zazula told us of his label’s relationship with its bands. “And that’s the vibe that I put out and that Marsha put out. If you couldn’t relate to me, you could relate to Marsha. We had just good times, and the good times with some of them continue into today.”

    Prior to signing Metallica, Jon and Marsha ran the New Jersey record shop Rock and Roll Heaven, a popular metal hangout in the early ’80s, thanks in large part to the imports of New Wave of British Heavy Metal albums from the likes of Iron Maiden and others.

    Upon hearing of Zazula’s passing, Brian Slagel, the founder of Metal Blade Records (who put Metallica on his Metal Massacre compilation before they signed to Megaforce) tweeted, “So sad to hear of the passing of Jon Zazula. He was East Coast and I was West Coast in the early days of metal. He worked with so many amazing bands.”

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    Our condolences go out to Jon Zazula’s family and friends, as well as the many bands he helped break over the years.

    This is a developing story …

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