James Phelps

*Gospel and R&B singer James Phelps, who performed with such legendary soul artists as Lou Rawls and Sam Cooke, has died in Los Angeles. He was 78.

Elder Lee M. Harris, who co-wrote an autobiography of Phelps (pictured below), said the singer died Tuesday at a Los Angeles hospital, apparently from complications of diabetes, reports the Associated Press.

Phelps was born in Shreveport, La. In his late teens he moved to Chicago, where he performed with several gospel groups including the Gospel Songbirds, the Holy Wonders and the Soul Stirrers. It was with the Holy Wonders that Phelps performed with Rawls. He met Cooke while a member of the Soul Stirrers.

Phelps was a founder of the group Clefs of Calvary and had a hit single “Love is a Five-Letter Word” in 1965 with Chess Records. [Listen below.]