Phil Philips

Biography by

"Sea of Love," credited as being by Phil Phillips with the Twilights, almost aced the pop Top 100 chart on August 24, 1959, but had to settle for the number two spot. It remains, however, one of the more…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

"Sea of Love," credited as being by Phil Phillips with the Twilights, almost aced the pop Top 100 chart on August 24, 1959, but had to settle for the number two spot. It remains, however, one of the more enduring remade and popular songs of the '50s. In 1958, Phil Phillips (born John Baptiste) was a young, frustrated guitar player who worked as a bellboy in Lake Charles, LA. Baptiste wrote "Sea of Love" to serenade a love interest, which didn't pan out, but he continued to practice his song. One day he was overheard by a friend of George Khoury, a local record producer who had worked with a female group called Cookie and the Cupcakes. Khoury took Baptiste to the studio, added some friends for backing vocals, and nailed the song down after multiple takes. Before the release, Khoury suggested that Baptiste use his middle name, Phillip, and Baptiste wound up becoming Phil Phillips. The song was first released on an independent label owned by Khoury, but it started selling so well that he leased it to Mercury Records for national distribution. Four follow-ups flopped; despite having Brook Benton and the Jordanaires on backing vocals and Clyde Otis producing, the newly christened Phil Phillips would never see the Top 40 again. Phillips complains to this day that the only money he received for his recording efforts was 6,800 dollars.

Del Shannon redid "Sea of Love" in 1982 and it charted at number 33; the Honeydrippers waxed it two years later and nearly duplicated Phillips with a number three showing. Later in the '80s he produced the song for the Fire Ants, a group that consisted of five of his children. Additionally, a movie titled Sea of Love, featuring Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin, was released in 1989. Phillips worked as a DJ at KJEF in Jennings, LA, well into the '90s.