RALPH PRUITT, the last original member of the Fantastic Four, died on Tuesday June 3rd at Detroit’s Sinai Grace Hospital. He was 74 and the published cause of death was “natural causes”.

Pruitt, born in Detroit in 1940, formed the Fantastic Four in 1965 with brother Joseph, James Epps and Wallace “Toby” Childs. They scored their biggest hit in 1967 with ‘The Whole World is A Stage’ –which was recorded for Detroit indie label, Ric Tic. The group then joined Motown as Berry Gordy bought out Ric Tic (along with other small Detroit labels). At Motown their records were released on the Soul subsidiary – a perfect vehicle for their searing sound led by the magnificent lead of James Epps. Their other best known outing was ‘I Love You Madly’.

After Motown the group moved onto Westbound where they cut the memorable ‘Alvin Stone (The Birth and Death of a Gangster)’ ‘I Got to Have Your Love,’ and ‘Bring Your Own Funk’ – produced by guitarist Dennis Coffey.

The foursome eventually splintered and Pruitt went on to lead an outfit called The New Fantastic Four with whom he was working right up to last year.

Ralph Pruitt is survived by his ex-wife, Nedra Denny, four daughters, one son and fourteen grandchildren.