The fourth and last of the #1 singles by Vinton, this is the only one that was not a cover. Vinton wrote the song with Gene Allan, a songwriter who worked for Don Kirshner's Aldon Music.
This was recorded in the make-or-break session in which Vinton recorded "Roses Are Red (My Love)," in 1962. His label, Epic Records, was going to drop him if he did not produce a hit. Said Vinton: "I wrote the song when I was in the Army, and when I did my first recording session - which was 'Roses Are Red' - the producers asked if I had any songs of my own. I played them 'Mr. Lonely' and they loved it."
After he recorded this song, Epic Records refused to release it, preferring to offer it to Buddy Greco, who was another artist in their stable. Greco's version stalled at #64 in the US in 1962, and that looked like the end of "Mr. Lonely." However, when Epic Records scheduled the release of a greatest hits LP for Vinton, the singer insisted upon the inclusion of his mothballed recording of this song. It became a hit quickly after the release of the LP, and as with "Blue Velvet," the single was released in response to popular demand.
This remains Vinton's favorite recording. It has endured through numerous cover versions. Frank Chacksfield, Franky B., The Lettermen, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Red Squares and The Village Stompers all recorded the song. Akon's 2005 hit Lonely is based on a sample of this song.