Hawkins had originally intended to record "I Put a Spell on You" as a refined love song, a blues ballad. He reported, however, that the producer "brought in ribs and chicken and got everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version... I don't even remember making the record. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins. It all sort of just fell in place. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death."
Hawkins first recorded "I Put a Spell on You" during his stint with Grand Records in late 1955. However, that first version was not released at the time. It has since been reissued on Hawkins' UK Rev-Ola CD The Whamee 1953-55.
The following year, Hawkins re-recorded his song for Okeh Records and the new version became a quick success. It was banned by some stores and radio stations, and did not appear on the record charts despite the fact it was clearly a good seller. The new version brought Hawkins together with Alan Freed and his "Rock and Roll Review".
Up to this time, Hawkins had been a blues performer; emotional, but not wild. Freed suggested a gimmick to capitalize on the "demented" sound of "I Put a Spell on You": Hawkins wore a long cape, and appeared onstage by rising out of a coffin in the midst of smoke and fog.