Jason Merito: May 20,1970 – March 2, 2014
To say that writing this tribute is weird and awkward is a bit of an understatement. Only partially because the person that it’s being written about is the person who proofread the previous tributes to Steve Harris of Shy and Michael Sunden and made a few suggestions and improvements to each one. And now, Jason is the one I’m writing about. It’s just after 1:00am CST right now, which is the time he and I held most of our “pow wows” about our artists. Not going to lie, this is really difficult. In fact I’ve written and rewritten this three times now – the last rewrite was actually about 5 pages long. No one wants to read that much about anyone …I met Jason Merito at a Lillian Axe reunion show at The Galaxy Club in Dallas, TX back in 1999 when we were both working in different capacities for the band. We were introduced after the show by Lillian Axe guitarist Steve Blaze and you could just tell the guy was this huge ball of fire, a jolt of pure energy that was barely containable. And it was infectious. Incredibly infectious. He dragged me out to the streets of Deep Ellum that night with the members of Dallas heavy hitters Big Iron and no sleep was had for at least another 24 hours. He and I exchanged numbers and said we’d keep in touch, adding each other as friends on AOL and whatever other outlets existed back then and we would chat for hours on end about obscure 80’s hard rock bands and brand new bands we had just discovered. This practice would continue literally up until the night before he went into the hospital.
At the time he was working for Proper Distribution and he had the opportunity to work with bands like Iron Maiden, Cheap Trick, Front 242, Bruce Dickinson (solo), Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens and other great artists while there. We would send each other boxes of CD’s that we were working … In 2002, when I was basically a one person operation he asked if he could do anything to help and thus began our working relationship. in 2006 we put together the foundation for a new company called Head First Entertainment and to make a long, boring story short, we worked together up until his passing. He also worked for Hot Topic and for Glazer’s Beverage Distribution during this time. A busy, busy guy but I never heard him complain. If I needed him to make a certain number of calls that day you could safely bet that I would have a report from him the very next morning. That is, after he worked all night at the beverage company.
Jason’s life revolved around music. He lived it, breathed it, consumed himself with it. Everytime I spoke to him it seemed he was excited about a show coming up, whether it was a week away or a month out, the excitement was pretty much the same. And it wasn’t always just national touring acts, he had his fair share of favourite local and regional artists, as well and he bought tickets to their shows, although he could get on a list pretty much anytime. He did that to support the bands, because that’s the way he was. Every now and then I’d call him and say, “Hey man, I got you on the (WHATEVER BAND) list and his reaction was always something like, “whoa, really?!?!?! SWEEEEEET!!!!” It was kind of funny to hear him get all giddy like that. Sort of like a little kid at Christmas. He wasn’t ONLY into hard rock and metal bands, either. We’d be talking about business or the newest Butch Walker album (he was INSANE for Butch) and suddenly he’s switching things up out of the blue and we’re singing the praises of Andy Kim, ABBA, The Bee Gees or The Sylvers or something. He was an across the board music fan and that’s one thing that set him apart from a lot of people. Good music is good music, there were no genre specific limitations.
He came to Phoenix a few months back and we went to dinner with him and his wonderful girlfriend Ann and hung out for a bit. It was way too short of a visit but we just figured we’d see him again in the not too distant future … And now we’ll never have that chance …
Jason Merito was one of those rare people who did things for all the right reasons. He was the most happy go lucky person you’d ever meet and he was fiercely loyal to family and friends, deeply spiritual, had a knack for making friends instantly, whether in person or on social media platforms. He was everyone’s best friend it seems and that was a title he wore with honour. He even knew which of my dogs was nearby from the sound of their bark. Random, I know, but it’s true.
Jason Merito’s passing was completely unexpected and heartbreaking for so many people. He loved everyone and we all loved him, This is quite apparent as you can read in the quotes I managed to get from some of his closest friends:
Jason was a great friend. If he knew I was in trouble or feeling down he would always give me a call to assure me that everything would be ok. When I was going through my divorce we went to lunch and told me this was not your decision so go on with your life and be happy. Just recently Jason asked me to go with him to the Butch Walker documentary and that will be something I will always cherish. These are just a few examples of a bond u don’t get these days!!
John Inman (Former guitarist for Dallas band No Respect)
Jason was a beautiful, compassionate, humble, and loving soul. We shared many days out in the work force, as well as musical adventures. Always a great sense of humor, as well as pure genuinism that was very unique.
Dean Schachtel (Product Manager, UDR Music USA)
Though I only knew Jason from Facebook, I considered him to be a good friend! We shared a mutual love for the Dallas Cowboys, Metal and cheesy 70’s music! I always liked reaching his posts about music. Jason was just an all round great guy and very well liked by many! My thoughts, love and prayers go out to his family and friends!
Patrick Kennison (Lead vocalist, guitarist for Heaven Below)
Jason was the kind of person you could hang with after the show and feel comfortable and open about any topic of discussion. He was cut from the same mold as people like Dimebag Darrell. I immediately let my guard down as soon as I met him. He made me feel like family whenever we spoke.
Andrew Paul (Lead vocalist, Scream Arena)
A man of class and integrity, A man of music.
Brentt Arcement (drummer, The New Black 7)
On behalf of myself and the band, we are truly saddened by this news. Although we only knew Jason for a short time, we knew the passion and love he had for music. I myself had a few long conversations with him about music and the music business. I also knew he was an aspiring song writer and had sent me over some lyric ideas he had been working on and wanted my thoughts on it. Truly a great guy and he will be missed. (Brentt, Jason, Tory and Scooter)
Rico Gtz (drummer, Junk, Generator)
My wife and I were truly saddened by the loss of our friend Jason Merito, he was one of, if not the biggest, DFW music supporter we have known. His knowledge, love and devotion will be greatly missed!!!
Charlie Bagarozza (President, Constant Motion Entertainment)
Jason and I go way back over 20 years when we used to be tape trading pals. We met via Goldmine Magazine in the classifieds. Jason is a true music lover and does it for all the right reasons. We need more Jason’s in the industry. Then maybe it would be more enjoyable and fun to try to earn a living. I’m going to miss him but at least I can say I’ve know him.
Steve Blaze (guitarist, Lillian Axe)
Jason Merito will be sadly missed. He was that constant happy face that would always greet you at every show in Houston or Dallas. He was the constant uplifting smile, the true fan, and the person you were glad to see when you came to town. He believed in music and its limitless power. I always felt so happy to see him in the crowd, smiling and letting me know how much our music meant to him. Whenever we were in the area, we just expected to see him. He was a part of the fabric, woven into the essence of the music and the scene. It wont be the same without him there. He was going to be working with us in April at the 2 Texas shows, and I was really looking forward to seeing him. To his family, please know he was a jewel of a human being, and brought me a ray of sunshine many times over the years. Jason my friend, I know you’re looking down smiling with that grin, seeing how many lives you touched. Keep a warm spot for us, and we’ll see you someday.
Michael Pierce (Lead vocalist ES3, Black Symphony)
Jason was the consummate friend and lover of life and music. I’ve met many people over the years performing concerts, but it’s not often that you get to build tangible friendships like the one Jason, my ES3 band mates and myself had. I always knew we were going to have a great show when we play Dallas, but know that we would get to hang with Jason and his crew, which we all became friends with as well, was the highlight of our travels. Jason whole-heartedly love music and made every effort to share what he loved with his friends. Not to get bodies in a club, but to show them, hey, I dig these guys and I want you to see why I dig them. That was awesome! In reflection of our past conversations, I can’t recall of a single time of Jason complaining about anything. I know there were tough times in his life, but he hit those situations head on. He always showed the utmost optimism. I know he loved a lot bands, but I always looked forward to seeing him when we would meet up at a Butch Walker show in the Dallas area. I’m sure the next BW show will be a bit awkward. But I thank God for giving us such an awesome friend to learn from and be more like. Thanks Jason for being an awesome friend. Your contagious smile and presence will be greatly missed. Love you Brother, PIERCE.
Dan Lehmann (vocalist Big Iron)
Jason was a beautiful person. A good natured guy with a positive spirit. Was passionate about music and being part of the local scene.
Alapeno Ward (guitarist, Hellgoat / Black Summer Rain, ex Big Iron)
I’ve known Jason for quite awhile. One of the biggest Fans of music, I’ve ever seen! Always there to give you support, whether it was music related or just needing a Friend to talk to. You will be missed my Friend… R.I.P.
Big Mike Rios (Red Blood Club, independent Dallas agent)
I first met Jason in the late 90s. He was always out supporting the scene. The Dallas Music Scene has lost one of its greatest supporters. R.I.P. my friend.
Billy Bogges (ES3)
When ES3 started playing the Dallas circuit, Jason was one of the first people that I became acquainted with. Since that time, we became great friends and he always supported me in all of my projects. Not only have I lost a great friend, the Dallas music scene has lost an icon. He will truly be missed.
Justin Elliot (Vocalist / guitarist, The Valentine Failures)
Jason had a huge love of music, specifically rock and metal. When I first started frequenting the club scene as a teenager, I remember thinking “this guy is always here.” He loved the scene and just being around music. He started hanging around TVF when we started up and pulled me to the side and said, “I want to be apart this. You guys have a great thing going here, and I want to ride it to the top with you.” This is how he became our “Mr. Do It All”. He was incredible. Above anything else Mex had the biggest heart for people. Anyone he called a friend could count on him to always be there. Just a great guy. I love him, and am going to miss him terribly.
Wayne 15 (drums, The Valentine Failures)
It’s hard to sum up so many memories and such a great life in a quote so I won’t try. I will say that I’ll miss his quiet wit, level headedness, and the calm cool way he always seemed to have in adversity. Most of all I’ll miss the talks. God knows how many hours we spent discussing with passion bands and albums only a handful of people know exist. Those conversations created a strong bond and over time those music discussions turned into life discussions and he always had a way to put you at ease no matter what you were going through. That’s what a good friend does and that’s one of the many things I’ll miss the most and I know that’s one of the reasons he touched so many people. We live in a world that’s fake and Mex was as real and genuine as they come. R.I.P Brother.
Robert Miguel (deepellumradio, former KEGL Radio personality)
Jason was an irreplaceable part of the Dallas rock scene: a capable musician and a world-class fan. An excellent example of how we all should live: generous & caring, always there with a kind word, but capable of valuable constructive criticism. He supported whole-heartedly anything he loved. I will miss his passion for music and life. I will miss his smiling face. But most of all I will miss the soft strength and peace in his voice. When I get to rock n’ roll heaven I expect to find Merito rocking on the main stage. And if he isn’t…I know he’ll be right up front smashed against the barricade with fists held high. R.I.P., Jason. I love you, man.
Darrin DeLatte (Guitarist, Lowside, ex-bassist, Lillian Axe)
Jason, we thank you for being a brother, friend and a fan. You were definitely a “true believer” and greatly appreciated! We will always remember you and you will live in our hearts forever until we meet again.
Ron Taylor (lead vocalist, Lowside, ex Lillian Axe)
Heaven has a new music lover today and I’m sure Jason is hanging out with the likes of Dime, Hendrix, Freddy Mercury, John Bonham, Layne Staley, Bon Scott, Cliff Burton, Steve Clark and countless other musicians, looking down on us, thinking, “you guys down there don’t know what you’re missing”. Jason was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known. He always had a smile on his face and just seemed to bring such a good vibe with him every time he walked into a room. It was always a pleasure having him around. Jason had a love and a passion for music far beyond most people I know. It was music that moved him, was in every fabric of his being and made him who he was. He loved the songs, the artwork, the liner notes, the b-sides, the singles, the unreleased tracks that no one else had. He loved the posters, t-shirts, rock clothing gear and wore it all with pride. Jason was Rock n Roll thru and thru! He loved the people of the music community which loved him back just as much, if not more. He loved the fans and friends at shows, the bartenders, the bouncers and yes, even the promoters and agents. Anyone who was part of the gig, was part of his family. He loved the artists and wanted to know them, wanted to know what made them tick, where they came up with songs, lyrics, concepts and most of all, he wanted to know “how can I help”? Jason has supported my bands for as long as I can remember and would always go above and beyond to help us out. I know he helped countless other musicians too, whether it was just telling them how much he loved their show or music, helping move gear, sell merch or just standing in the front row, rocking out. He loved being part of the music business and was always telling me about a band he was into, saying “you gotta check these guys out”! He was also always formulating a master plan to get our band out to the masses so everyone could see us play and hear our music, saying “you guys should be HUGE”! The last conversation I had with him was at our rehearsal when he came by to get some posters to take up to the club we were about to play. I took the time to walk away from rehearsing to talk to him about his band and the fact that he had started singing. This time it was me who had the master plan so I was telling him that I wanted to work with him and wanted to help make him a badass singer. He had the biggest smile on his face. I walked him out the door, said goodbye, locked the door and he was gone. Jason was genuine, a one of a kind, and people like him don’t just walk into your life every day. I feel blessed to have known him and especially honored to have been high on his list of favorite musicians. Jason, we had some great times and I know this isn’t the end. We’ll all join you one day and have ourselves one heck of a super music festival in Heaven. Much Love!
RIP Jason Merito: May 20,1970 – March 2, 2014
We Love You.
– Dave Tedder (Head First Entertainment/ Vanity Music Group)