Taking his first steps as a bandleader after years of working with New York's top Latin musicians, Willie Amadeo has produced two impressive albums -- Inspirado in 1999 and A Mi Mancera the following year. The son of Puerto Rican parents, Amadeo grew up in the Bronx. His earliest exposure to music came at the Pentecostal Church he attended with his mother. After the church service, he would remain behind and play the drum set in the sanctuary. Inspired by the music he heard played by Hector Lavoe and his orchestra while in Puerto Rico, he joined a high school Latin music group upon his return to New York. Encouraged by his teachers, Amadeo began to envision a career as a musician. Starting to sing, he became a featured vocalist for the city's high school all-star salsa band. Continuing to sing following his graduation, Amadeo appeared with a series of Latin groups, including Conjunto Cache and La Charanga America. Accepting an invitation to join Grupo Imagen, he recorded three albums -- Always and Forever, Tears on My Pillow, and Mario Rhumba -- with the band. Launching his own 12-piece group in 1999, Amadeo recorded Inspirado for the Songo label. The label failed to adequately promote the album and Amadeo became so disenchanted that he stopped performing and considered leaving the music business. At his wife's insistence, however, he agreed to record a few demo tracks with Aquilino "Junior" Zúñiga, a Latin songwriter who had penned two songs on Inspirado. When these tracks reached the offices of Mambo City Records, the label signed him and his group to a recording contract. A Mi Manera was released a few months later. Amadeo and his orchestra continue to perform regularly at the Wild Palm Club in the Bronx.