Phillips was a pioneering gospel performer in the 1920s. Born January 11, 1880 in Texas, Phillips recorded sixteen songs, some of which amount to highly specific and detailed gospel sermons. The songs were recorded between 1927 and 1929 and feature Phillips' voice self-accompanied by an instrument that sounds like a fretless zither. This instrument, which has been variously identified as a Dolceola, a Celestophone, and a Phonoharp (and also is considered by some to be an instrument entirely home-made by Phillips) creates a unique sound on these recordings that makes them immediately recognizable. Phillips died September 20, 1954 in Teague, Texas, at the age of 74.