The idea for the song was presented to Otis Blackwell by an old friend, Eddie Cooley. Blackwell said: "Eddie Cooley was a friend of mine from New York and he called me up and said 'Man, I got an idea for a song called "Fever", but I can´t finish it. I had to write it under another name because, at that time, I was still under contract to Joe Davis'."
Little Willie John reportedly disliked the song, but was persuaded to record it, on March 1, 1956, by King Records owner Syd Nathan and arranger and producer Henry Glover. His version was released in April 1956 and became a double-sided hit along with the top-ten R&B song "Letter from My Darling". "Fever" reached number one for three weeks on the R&B Best Sellers chart. It also made the pop charts, peaking at number 24 on the Billboard chart.