Jon Zazula is one of the greatest rockstars of all time.
He’s never electrified any crowds with blistering guitar solos, never driven an arena full of fans to pump their fists in unison, was never featured on t-shirts, magazines, or in posters on teenagers’ walls, but his impact on modern music has been immeasurable. No single individual has shaped the Heavy Metal landscape as much as Jonny Z – – the music world’s original J.Z. His life is a triumph.
Many know Zazula’s name, but few know the full extent of his vision and influence as the starmaker behind Metallica, Anthrax, Testament, Overkill, Manowar, King Diamond, King’s X, and numerous others. He’s the founder of Megaforce Records, which was staffed in its early days by the likes of Metal Maria Ferrero and Eddie Trunk. They may have always been a small independent label, but their importance to Heavy Metal and Thrash history cannot be understated. As a denim vest kid of the 80s, I can attest: you’d buy any cassette if you saw the two-fisted Megaforce logo. It was like a guarantee of quality.
Before Megaforce (and CraZed Management), though, Jon was the humble proprietor of Rock n’ Roll Heaven at the Route 18 flea market in New Jersey. From the get-go, bands across NYC and NJ paid their highway tolls and traveled to seek out his blessing in person. His reputation and reach would grow enough for him to lure Metallica from the west coast to sign a deal.
You know how that all turned out.
After reading his 2019 autobiography, “Heavy Tales,” I developed a deeper appreciation for Jon and wife Marsha’s dedication and personal sacrifices, all in the name of the great music (Rest in Peace, Marsha). My main impression of Zazula is of a hard-working (workaholic?), down-to-earth, passionate guy who brings tremendous love and devotion to anyone or anything he cares about, from his family, friends, co-workers, artists, and alumni in the Old Bridge Militia, to the Thrash Metal music he helped put on the map – – plus all things “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” He fought to the bitter end for his artists. How many high decibel dreams would have faded out without his guidance and backing?
Every Heavy Metal fan owes the Zazula family a debt of gratitude. Their dedication, vision, and hard work brought an entire generation of Metal kids to Rock n’ Roll Heaven.
Jon and Marsha Zazula were inducted into the Metal Hall of Fame in 2019.
Jack Mangan is best known in the Metal world as the co-host of the popular Metal Hall of Fame and MetalAsylum.net livestreams with Rich Catino, but in this space, he’s also the lead author/project runner for the “Am I Evil?” graphic novel and a journalist with MetalAsylum.net and the official Metal Hall of Fame. In an adjacent life, he was a podcast pioneer, with numerous appearances on Dragon Page, Escape Pod/Pseudopod, and many others, including his own productions: Jack Mangan’s Deadpan, and the Podcast novel, “Spherical Tomi.” Friend him on Facebook if you can find him, but be warned: he’s not great about checking Facebook Messenger.
(Elements of this article were taken from a 2019 MetalAsylum.net review of Jon Zazula’s autobiography, “Heavy Tales.” Seriously – – you need to read his book.)