This tale of passionate love was originally recorded by a singer named Little Willie John. In 1937, he was born William Edgar John in Arkansas. He was one of the first R&B singers, fairly popular in the late '50s and early '60s. Although he was a major influence on Soul singers of the '60s, he remains relatively unknown today. His nickname came from his slight height - he was only 5'4". After stabbing a man to death, he was jailed for manslaughter and died in prison when he was only 30 years old. The cause of his death is disputed - with reasons given ranging from a heart attack, pneumonia, asphyxiation, or as the result of beatings received in prison. His songs have been covered by many artists - The Beatles recorded "Leave My Kitten Alone" for the Beatles for Sale sessions, but never released it (It did appear on their Anthology 1 cd-set). Little Willie John was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
There is some controversy over who wrote this, but according to Otis Blackwell, he wrote it with Eddie Cooley. Otis Blackwell was a singer/songwriter/pianist, but most well-known for his songwriting. Some famous songs he wrote/co-wrote are "Don't Be Cruel," "Great Balls of Fire," and "All Shook Up." Cooley was a songwriting partner on many of his songs, and accordingto Blackwell, they had an agreement that Cooley would split his weekly paycheck as a jeweler with him. They would pen songs together and Blackwell would go to New York City to "hustle" them.
Blackwell had this credited to the name John Davenport (his stepfather) because he was under contract at RCA and was concerned he wouldn't get royalties for it.
Blackwell said in an interview that Little Willie John didn't want to record this at first because he didn't like the finger snapping.
Peggy Lee recorded the most famous version of this song. She was born Norma Deloris Egstrom on May 26, 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota. Her break came when she was discovered by bandleader Benny Goodman. Lee was a Blues-influenced Jazz singer and also a songwriter, with such hits as the songs from Disney's Lady and the Tramp, in which she also sang and voiced a few characters. A triple-threat of her day, she was also an actress with a role in a remake of The Jazz Singer and was nominated for an Oscar for her role as an alcoholic Blues singer in Pete Kelly's Blues.
Many artists, both male and female, have recorded this. Notable covers include Elvis, Tom Jones and Madonna. (thanks, Crystal - Springfield, MO, for all above)
The trade charts were so distorted in the 1950s that even though Willie John's original version, (which made #24 in the US) trailed Peggy Lee's, it outsold hers by 2 to 1. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)