Musician reinvents career with message of hope
For the Nevada Appeal
Leon Patillo brings his legendary talent, music and his message, “You Can Begin Again,” in a free concert, 6 p.m., Sunday at First Christian Church, Carson City. An offering will be taken.
The one-time frontman of Santana, Patillo has since 1999 been using his talent to inspire others to “feel a little closer to the One who made them.”
“I’m just getting back on the road, touring with a performance team and it’s been so much fun,” said Patillo, who has devoted these past years to ministering to others, pursuing his dream of contemporizing gospel music. He has recorded 18 albums that have included such songs as “J-E-S-U-S,” “Cornerstone” and “Flesh of My Flesh,” enjoying continued acclaim for his work.
Patillo’s own walk with Christ began when he met his wife Renee on a cruise and was exposed through her and her family to another way of life.
Having found the cruise experience fun and exciting and wanting to share that with others, he and Renee began hosting a Christian gathering on the Queen Mary each year, where couples could enjoy a beautiful time, dining, dancing and connecting. The event continues today under the direction of Patillo’s assistant pastor, which has allowed him to return to touring.
“That was cool, but this is way more fun; we see so many nationalities and denominations out on the road and it’s been amazing,” he said.
Once Patillo had undergone his conversion and while in the infancy of his own understanding, Santana was on tour with Earth, Wind and Fire.
“There we were on the plane – Santana on one side and Earth, Wind and Fire on the other – because both bands thought they were better than the other,” Patillo said, laughing. “I crossed the plane with my Bible in my hand and I didn’t know much yet, and introduced myself to Philip Bailey and the band.
“They said, ‘why don’t you teach us something out of that book,’ and so both bands started meeting in my suite every night after the concerts for Bible study.”
After the first week, Bailey and two others had decided they, too, wanted to walk with Christ and from that came what was supposed to be a one-night event at the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles called “Jesus at the Roxy,” no small thing in the 1980s.
“To have the Roxy and Jesus in the same title in the ’80s, well …,” Patillo said.
The evening grew into a four performance engagement where such luminaries as Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder as well as the top directors, producers and writers in Hollywood comprised the audience. And every show, more would arrive.
“It was amazing – we played and then had a jam session with anyone who wanted to come up, then we prayed, which was followed by a Bible study – people just kept showing up and we kept adding performances,” he said. “They all wanted to sing and praise together and from there, we started a weekly Bible study at my house.
Patillo finally came to the idea that other denominations might enjoy contemporized gospel music, when he, Donna Summers and Take 6 were invited by Pope John Paul II to perform at His Holiness’ homecoming visit to Poland in 2002.
“It was just something to be asked by the pope to do this, and it also gave me a heads up that other people like our music, too.”
Patillo’s life has had many blessings, from being asked by Carlos Santana in 1973, to join the band, to being part of the Get Motivated Seminar, appearing with such luminaries as Gen. Colin Powell, George Foreman, former First Lady Laura Bush, Zig Ziglar and others, in venues across the United States.
He also works with Koinonia Foster Homes, helping homeless kids to be placed into loving homes, and World Vision, which reaches the world’s poor by meeting immediate needs. This year, Patillo will partner with the City Impact Center, a community outreach in the heart of Las Vegas that empowers and equips youths to better themselves and their families.
An evening with Patillo and his performance team will be packed with the inspired and inspiring contemporized gospel music for which he is known, as well as joy and humor.
“People are really being challenged and are being knocked down and the cumulative effect is sometimes hopelessness so deep they feel (suicide) is the only way out,” he said. “I keep sensing there’s a real need out there for people to hear my message, ‘You Can Begin Again,’ which addresses three areas: spiritual, financial and romance.
“Whether someone actually makes a conversion or simply receives the love and is inspired to keep going, is why I do this … especially for those who are hurting and needing, I want them to know they will hear a hopeful message.”
While religion has its place Patillo said, the more important thing is to get in relationship with God, much like we do in our everyday relationships and marriages.
“We have to keep our communication going on a daily basis and it’s work sometimes,” he said. “If we would all apply the principles of the 10 Commandments, love God and our neighbor … we could change the world.
“We think we got it handled, but I know it goes a lot better when I put my little hand in my daddy’s hand, rather than trying to toddle along by myself.”
For more information about Patillo, his work, to order his music and even to make a prayer request, visit him on the Web at leonpatillo.org.
First Christian Church is located at 2211 Mouton Dr. For more information, call the church at 775-883-4836.