METALLICA has paid tribute to Megaforce Records founder Jon "Jonny Z" Zazula who died earlier today (Tuesday, February 1). The 69-year-old passed away in Florida surrounded by his family. Jonny died of complications of the rare neuropathic disorder chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP),chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and osteopenia, the family said.
The legendary heavy metal 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, Jonny 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."
Jon's wife Marsha, with whom he founded Megaforce, passed away of cancer in January of last year.
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 Elektra. Megaforce's roster has also included such artists as ANTHRAX, TESTAMENT, OVERKILL, Ace Frehley, MINISTRY, KING'S X, STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH and RAVEN.
In a 2019 interview, Jonny recalled hearing METALLICA's "No Life 'Til Leather" demo for the first time: "I basically said, 'What the fuck!' 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."
Jonny said of the superstardom METALLICA achieved: "When we first started with the group in '83, we envisioned this. We knew we were dealing with a group that could potentially rival LED ZEPPELIN. They were destined for greatness."
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 METALLICA, ANTHRAX 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."