Phil Phillips

March 14, 1926-March 14, 2020             Crowley, Louisiana

Philip Baptiste was born in Crowley, Louisiana. He was encouraged to pursue a career as a singer after a school performance of a song called "Sweet Slumber." He sang with his brothers in a gospel group called the Gateway Quartet and worked as a bellhop before he recorded "Sea of Love" in 1959. The song was arranged and produced by Eddie Shuler for neighbor George Khoury's, Khoury Records. After three months of work on the arrangement, building up the vocal group, and trying out different musicians, the song was ready for release.

 

Baptiste changed his name to Phil Phillips and dubbed his backing vocalists the Twilights. After a Baton Rouge disc jockey played the song repeatedly, the recording sold heavily and was leased to Mercury Records. "Sea of Love" went to #2 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart and spent 14 weeks in the top 40, as well as reaching #1 on the R&B chart. In 1959 it sold over one million copies, but Phillips was paid only $6800 and received no further royalties.

 

Phillips did not release an album to capitalize on his success due to the unfavorable terms of his deal and has said, "I've never been paid as an artist for 'Sea of Love’." The song remained a big seller with notable covers by Del Shannon and the Honeydrippers. Phillips' original version was featured prominently in the 1989 film Sea of Love starring Al Pacino. 

 

Among Phillips' other songs is "No One Needs My Love Today"(1966), which was recorded by Samantha Juste, co-host of BBC TV's Top of the Pops.  Phillips later worked as a radio DJ. He married and had seven children. Phillip's last performance was in April 2005 at the Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Louisiana. In October 2007, Phillips was honored for his contributions to Louisiana music with an induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.  He is also a member of the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Music Hall of Fame.

Phil Phillips performs "Sea of Love."