Freddy Fender originally wrote and recorded the blues ballad in 1959, during the early stages of his career. Before they had the chance to popularize the potential hit, Fender and a band member were arrested for the possession of two marijuana joints. At the age of 23, Fender was sentenced to five years in prison. After serving nearly three years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, he was pardoned by then-governor Jimmie Davis, who himself was a songwriter and musician. Fender re-recorded the song for his first album, Before the Next Teardrop Falls, released in 1974, and it went on to become a number-one hit.