Corner Cafe Show: July 13, 2019
John Schlitt, best known as the lead singer for Grammy Award-winning Christian band Petra, currently records and tours as a solo artist, as well with The Union of Sinners and Saints, a band featuring Schlitt, former Whiteheart member Billy Smiley and Jason Fowler.
Schlitt also brings his lead vocalist talent to The Jay Sekulow Band, a seven-piece ensemble featuring Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice and host of his own radio and talk shows. Other band members include Schlitt, John Elefante, Scott Kirkman, Marco Pangallo and Mark Lee Townsend. The group, with a popular following on social media, performs live concerts, as well as records videos.
With a career that spans more than four decades, Schlitt first rose to success as the lead singer for popular 70s rock band Head East. Fired from Head East in 1980 because of his alcohol and drug addiction, Schlitt left music behind for five years. It was during that time that the singer was led to Christ through the witness of his wife, Dorla, and their pastor, a decision that also led to Schlittleaving behind his addiction.
Schlitt officially joined Petra in 1986, bringing his unique sound to a band that, during Schlitt’s tenure as lead vocalist, would earn 10 Dove Awards and four Grammys.
With a popularity that spans the globe, Schlitt continues a busy schedule that includes touring internationally, as well as appearing on shows, such as “The Mike Huckabee Show,” TBN’s “Praise” and “700 Club Interactive.” His last full length solo CD, “The Christmas Project,” was released in 2013.
John began singing when he was just five years old, performing the leads in recitals and plays in his school. By the time he was 13 he was in the unforgettably titled band “Vinegar Hills Hometown Band Something Different” – being paid $25 bucks as lead singer. It soon became clear that a career in music was in John’s future. He finished college with a degree in civil engineering and promptly set about making a name for himself in the world of rock ‘n roll. His unique, fiery tenor and unbridled passion for singing landed him a gig fronting the secular rock outfit Head East.
John’s eight-year stint with Head East put him on the map in terms of his career – the band was celebrated for its raw energy and swagger. Described by one newspaper as a “brash…cocky, (and) hard-fisted rock band” the five-piece enjoyed a loyal following and a string of hits throughout the ‘70s that helped solidify their fanbase. John’s career seemed set but it all came to a distressing end in 1980 when he was let go by the band. The reason: John had an out-of-control drug and alcohol addiction.
His departure from Head East should have served as a wake-up call but John immediately decided to start another band in an attempt to feed his drug and alcohol addiction. His lack of musical focus and hunger for a constant “fix” led to the band’s quick demise. John, who seemed poised for a long and fruitful career in music, was suddenly an abject failure. He became another casualty of rock ‘n roll decadence, rejected by his peers and left to his own drug-influenced devices.
Little did he realize that God was already hard at work in changing his life. As John battled his inner demons, God began working on his wife Dorla, who met the Lord as John continued his descent into dispair. John’s initial reaction was one of distaste.
“Get outta my face! I don’t need this Jesus stuff; I’m too cool for Jesus. I’ll tell ya, I’ll become a Christian when I’m rich, famous, done everything, too old to have any fun, and then I’ll do it just… hmmm….. to be safe.”
Dorla’s new found faith upset John but it did impress him. “She was so happy all the time; I was like totally miserable. One day I said ‘What makes you so happy?’ And she goes, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ And I just go ‘Oh, man – here it comes.'”
John fought the Holy Spirit’s beckoning every step of the way. In his mind, suicide was the only way out of the downward spiral that had so engulfed his life. A quick and easy overdose of pills was the method of choice.
But Dorla’s persistent prayer and love led to John’s spiritual awakening.
One evening, just prior to his planned demise, John agreed to accompany Dorla to see their pastor. “I only went along so my wife would be able to say ‘he tried’ after I was gone,” said John.
But God wasn’t about to let John end things. That evening, “I… got hit with a boldness about Jesus that I’ve never known before,” he recalls in awe. “I got saved that night, and it was a new beginning for me. I didn’t feel that burden of guilt anymore, and I had a new chance. Although I still had all my debts from all my drug stupidity, I knew that God and I were gonna be able – you know, we’d take care of it. And sure enough, it was (taken care of), step by step – God’s way.”
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We’ll be talking with Janaya Black, with the movie Warrior Pride, in the 9 p.m. hour, on the Weekly Special.