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Leon Patillo - A Chosen Vessel
One of Leon Patillo’s earliest musical memories finds him in a classroom where his grammar schoolteacher spotted his gift and told his mother who immediately bought a piano for him to practice on. This insightful move unbeknownst to her, would eventually shape her son’s life and career.
Leon became a major trendsetting force in Contemporary Christian Music by bringing funk and soul that was part of his musical DNA. But long before this, he was already embracing his gift—first in youth choir at church, and then blending his passions for Motown and Rock and Roll to create his popular first Bay area band, Leon’s Creation.
Driven by Leon’s original songs, powerful vocals, horn and string arrangements, piano and organ skills, the group’s Sly & The Family Stone-influenced fusion, led to a deal with Atlantic Records and opening slots for major emerging bands like Rare Earth and War. He was later hired to do arrangements for artists like The Pointer Sisters, George Clinton/Parliament Funkadelic, Leo Sayer and Martha and the Vandellas.
The success of Leon’s Creation caught the attention of Carlos Santana, who after a private meeting hearing him sing and play organ, hired him to be the next lead vocalist for his megahit group, Santana. This took the singer to a whole new level of success, performing with the legendary guitarist throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Japan in front of tens of thousands of fans. In addition, during his years with Santana (1973-76) he sang and played keyboards on the albums Borboletta (on which he also wrote Mirage) and Festival, which featured his song Try a Little Harder and co-wrote (with Santana and other members) on Let the Children Play, Reach Up and Let the Music Set You Free.
At the same time as Leon began sensing that some of the fans coming to Santana’s shows were questioning their lives and searching for answers, he also started having similar doubts about his path and ultimate purpose. Intense spiritual conversations he had with the guitarist and Maurice White and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire (with whom Santana toured) ultimately inspired Leon to leave the band and seek out his next creative and spiritual venture.
Making the decision to write and record Christian pop music led him to sign a deal with Maranatha Music (which put out his debut album Dance Children Dance in 1979) and then with Word Records, where he enjoyed a massive run of success in the 80s with his recordings, I’ll Never Stop Loving You, Live Experience (#10 on the Top Contemporary Christian Albums chart), The Sky’s The Limit (#5), Love Around the World (#7), A Funny Thing Happened, and Brand New (#8). He became known for his dance/funk approach to religious and worship music as well as performing extensive tours (at one time headlining 160 gigs per year) as a one-man band, putting together a dazzling computerized show.
While continuing his string of hits into the 90s with On the Way Up, Souly For Him, and Breathe On Me, Leon also started his own show called Leon & Friends, a Top 10 talk show on TBN.
It was an outgrowth of informal gatherings he had at his home in Bel Air with R&B icons in his personal musical circle, including Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and late greats Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston. The show was sponsored by Koinonia Foster Homes, reflecting Leon’s lifelong affinity for foster parenting due to growing up in a home where his parents took in foster children.
Honing in on his God-given spiritual gifts, Leon has long seen himself as an encourager – a vessel chosen to bring joy into the hearts of many people via his music and friendly personality. His concerts around the globe have always been filled with excitement, humor and inspirational teaching, with audiences crossing all age and ethnic groups to see him sing, dance and motivate.
From 1999 through 2012, he traveled with and played a key role with the popular and culturally impactful Get Motivated Seminars, singing the national anthem and getting audiences going before featured speakers like Zig Ziglar, Laura Bush, Colin Powell and many other notables took the stage. In 2011, Leon moved to Las Vegas and started a successful youth foundation called S.I.N.G. (Save and Inspire the Next Generation), whose goal is to bring positive inspiration to a mostly negative influenced youth. Among many other community activities, the organization hosted American Idol-like singing contests for kids from 8-16.
In addition to continuing to record albums, Leon in 2019 released his first book entitled, Hidden Treasures in Your Field, a compilation of his musical and life experiences combined with Scriptures designed to encourage the reader. His new album Sing Along With Leon features his interpretation of Christian and worship classics including I Can Only Imagine, In Christ Alone, Let Everything That Hath Breath, Mary Did You Know and The Prayer and six originals, including United We Stand and We Will Rise – 2 songs he believes will bring healing to our nation.
Leon continues to travel all over the country to inspire, encourage and bring joy to many people through concerts and speaking engagements at different churches, festivals, special functions, fund raisers and conferences.
Now, God is doing a new thing and wants Leon to go out with a band and do outreach concerts. He partnered with the Machaira Band, and they are planning to come to your area to win more souls.
Leon is also working on a Soul-Winning Movie Project. It is a modern-day Cinderella story with a twist. To find out more, or to get involved, CONTACT US.