Ed Wingate, owner of the newly formed Detroit-based Golden World Records, had signed the Reflections on the basis of the group's regional success with the single "You Said Goodbye" on the local Kay-Ko label. Songwriter Freddie Gorman, who had been recruited by Golden World from Motown, would recall that he considered his recent composition "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet" as "tailor made" for the doo-wop-styled Reflections "because it had a pop feel, as opposed to the R&B thing they were doing." However Reflections' lead singer Tony Micale recalls that none of the group responded positively to the song when Gorman first sang it for them: "It just didn't sound like much with [Gorman] just playing a little piano backup".
The Reflections recorded the vocal for the track several weeks later at the RCA recording studio in Chicago. According to Micale, the group's members still regarded the song as somewhat of a joke. While running through the song prior to the recording session they ad-libbed a falsetto "doo-doo-doot" hook line as irreverent mimicry of Gorman's vocal style when he'd pitched them the song. The group was surprised when Gorman added that line to the song's vocal arrangement. The instrumental track for "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet" had been recorded at United Sound Systems in Detroit. Micale would recall that when the group's members first heard that instrumental track through the [RCA] studio monitors "we were just blown away... Some of the Motown [session musicians] were playing on it, and the sound was just amazing. Besides our vocals, the only thing added at that point were [the] 'doo-doo-doot's that we had come up with, and hand claps".
First aired on CKLW in Windsor ON in February 1964, the single topped the hit parade of CKLW, as well as those of Detroit radio stations WJBK and WKNR in March 1964. "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet" made its national chart debut on the Billboard Hot 100 dated April 11, 1964, ranked at #86 and rose to a Hot 100 peak of #6 on the chart dated May 30, 1964. In New Zealand, the song reached #5.
"(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet" returned to the Hot 100 in 1975 via a remake by Sha Na Na which, despite falling short of the Top 40 with a #55 peak, and #47 on the Easy Listening chart, and was the group's most successful single.
A rival remake by Fallen Angels, also in 1975, reached #106 on the bubbling under the Hot 100 chart.
The song has also been recorded by Little Caesar and the Consuls (album Little Caeser and the Consuls/ 1965), The Outsiders (album Album #2/ 1966), Ultimate Spinach (album Ultimate Spinach III/ 1969), and Stephen Bishop (album Blue Guitars/ 1996). The venerable Austin, TX, honkytonk band, Jim Stringer and the AM Band, released their version of the song as a single in 2020.