This is an English version of the German folk song "Muss I Denn." Elvis Presley sang it in the movie G.I. Blues
, and his version became a #1 hit in the UK in March 1961. RCA Records had no intention of releasing it in the US, as they feared it would harm his image - in the movie, he sang it to a puppet and it is clearly a novelty, complete with poorly translated lyrics like "If you say goodbye then I know that I would cry, maybe I would die." Elvis was becoming more of a family entertainer and had a huge hit borrowing from an Italian song with "It's Now Or Never
," but this one could have done serious damage to his rock cred.
When it became clear that the Elvis version wasn't going to be released in America, the race was on to record it stateside, and Shelby Singleton, a producer at Mercury Records, got a young performer named Joe Dowell to sing a half-English, half-German version, which shot to #1 upon release. Dowell had one more Top 40 hit when the novelty song "Little Red Rented Rowboat" made #23 in America, but he got his own G.I. Blues when he was drafted into the Army.