Metallica Play Special Concert Honoring Original Megaforce Label Founders Jonny and Marsha Zazula

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Metallica will play a special tribute concert on Nov. 6 to honor Jonny and Marsha Zazula, the founders of their original label, Megaforce Records. 

Joined by fellow Megaforce alums and former tour mates, Raven, Metallica will perform songs from earlier in their career, circa 1983 through 1984, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, a venue with a capacity of 7,000, which is unusually small for the band. 

For decades, Jon (Jonny) and Marsha Zazula remained an influential couple within the metal scene, founding Megaforce Records in 1982 with offices in Philadelphia and New York City and releasing some of the first albums from bands like Metallica, including their 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All and the followup Ride the Lightning in 1984 before the band landed a major label deal with Elektra for the release of their third album Master of Puppets in 1986. 

Megaforce also released Anthrax’s 1984 debut Fistful of Metal in 1984 and Testament’s The Legacy in 1987, as well as albums by Ace Frehley, King’s X, Overkill, Ministry, Raven, and Stormtroopers.

The couple passed away within one year of each other in 2021 and 2022. Marsha died on Jan. 10, 2021, from cancer at the age of 68, while Jonny died on Feb. 1, 2022, at his home in Clermont, Florida, from a rare neurological condition at 69. Jonny Zazula’s 2019 autobiography, Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived By Jon Zazula recounts the story of how the couple ended up signing the band that transformed heavy metal.

“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,” said Jonny Zazula in a 2020 interview. “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.”

Following Jonny Zazula’s death in early 2022, Metallica wrote: “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.”

A portion of the proceeds from the November show will be donated in the Zazulas’ name to MusiCares, the non-profit division of the Recording Academy supporting the offering of preventive, emergency, and recovery programs to musicians and industry professionals, in addition to Metallica’s All Within My Hands with a donation going to Feeding South Florida.

“This night will be extra-special as we’ll be celebrating the life, legacy, and achievements of Jonny and Marsha Zazula,” said Metallica in a statement. “Jonny gave us our first break in New York, released our first albums on his Megaforce Records label, and put us out on the road for our first real tour. With Marsha by his side, Jonny was a mentor, a manager, a label head, and a father figure to us all. We would not be where we are today without the two of them. Sadly, we recently lost both Jonny and Marsha, just a little more than a year apart.”

The band added, “We’ll be cooking up a special setlist for you full of songs from our days with Jonny and Marsha at Megaforce. Our main touring partner from that time, Raven, will be joining us to add to the celebration and bring back the memories. Head out to Hard Rock Live and celebrate two heavy metal pioneers and champions with us.”

The Zazula family added that they “humbled and appreciative” that their parents are being honored with this special concert.

“The pride our parents felt toward every member of the Metallica community, from the band members to fans, was insurmountable,” read their statement. “We can’t wait to witness this full-circle moment that will undoubtedly cause some raucous head-banging in rock and roll heaven. Horns up…at Hit the Lights.”

Photo: Anton Corbijn

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