Jon Zazula, known to many as Jonny Z, founded Megaforce Records in the early '80s, making Metallica his first signing. Previewing his memoir, Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived by Jon Zazula, the influential label head recalled the events that led to one of the most important record deals in metal history.

Prior to starting Megaforce alongside his wife, Marsha, Zazula was fueling the local metal scene as a record shop owner specializing in releases not traditionally found at other music purveyors. One fateful day, a patron forced Metallica's No Life 'Til Leather demo on Zazula, who relented and played it in his shop without previewing it first — something that went against his tradition.

Blown away, he contacted the band immediately and got in touch with Lars Ulrich. "I'm gonna do something with this band. I've got to be part of the legacy — I knew there was going to be a legacy," his gut instinct told him.

Fortifying the scene in the Old Bridge, New Jersey and surrounding areas even further, Zazula was organizing local shows and knew he had to get Metallica on the East Coast. "Come out, I have 12 shows for you with Venom and Twisted Sister and Raven," Zazula said to Ulrich before blindly sending a bunch of kids from San Francisco $1,500 for a U-Haul rental. "I still have the keys," he laughed.

From there, Zazula recalls his first encounter with Metallica — Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine and Cliff Burton — as they proceeded to enter his home and slug liquor straight from the bottle, introducing him to their defiant thrash attitude, which caught him off guard.

Despite shopping for a record deal for the young Metallica, Zazula was met only with resistance, so he decided that it was time to start his own label to get the word out about this incredible new band.

But don't listen to us tell you all about it. Watch the video at the top of the page to hear the full definitive story straight from the source.

Following their signing of Metallica, Megaforce would go on to ink deals with Anthrax, Overkill, Ace Frehley, King's X, Raven, Mercyful Fate, Testament, Stormtroopers of Death and a lot more.

Learn more about the history of Jonny Z and Megaforce records in Heavy Tales, out Oct. 29. Pre-order your copy here and catch the legend himself at the two appearances listed below.

Oct. 24 — New York City, N.Y. @ Cutting Room (Back Story conversation with Brad Tolinski)
Oct. 26 — Fords, N.J. @ Vintage Vinyl (Q&A and signing)

Every Metallica Song Ranked


More From Loudwire