This is the song that launched The Righteous Brothers. Medley and Bobby Hatfield were in a 5-piece band called The Paramours when Medley wrote it. He taught the song to Hatfield, then contacted Ray Maxwell, the owner of a local label called Moonglow Records, who came to hear the duo sing it. Maxwell had them record the song, but since it was just Hatfield and Medley, they needed a new name.
There was a marine base nearby, and some of the marines would refer to the duo as "righteous brothers," which is how they chose the name.
Nothing happened when the song was released, but then Hatfield and Medley took some gigs at The Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California, which was a surf ballroom where Dick Dale played.
"We were fish-out-of-water, we were R&B guys," Medley said. "We didn't want to go down there, but we said, OK. We would sing it, and it fit this surf dance that they were doing, so they said, 'We love that song.' They went to buy it and the record store said, 'Never heard of it.' So Bobby Hatfield and our road manager took about 1500 copies to the record store, and we told the kids where to buy them. Well, 1500 kids when down and bought this record. In those days, some of the radio stations would call record stores to see what was selling."
The radio station was KRLA in Los Angeles. The song took off when a DJ used it as backing music to promote a record hop - these promos ran more often than the songs, so it got a lot of spins that way. Soon the station was getting requests for the song, and it became a local hit. This led to a distribution deal with VeeJay Records to issue the song nationally.