It’s common knowledge that President Kennedy’s assassination occurred fifty years ago this week, and those of us who were around in 1963 can usually remember what we were doing when we first heard the news, but for many people the connection is even stronger. When the presidential motorcade passed in front of a Dallas hotel shortly before the shooting, several members of a pop music touring show – Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars – were standing outside watching, and they were stunned to later learn what had happened. Among those watching were Dick Clark himself, Jimmy Clanton, Bobby Vee, and today’s spotlighted duo, Dale and Grace, whose “I’m Leaving It Up To You” had hit the top of the charts just that week.
Dale Houston was born in Mississippi but raised in Southern Louisiana, an area rich with musical traditions. By the late 1950s he was pursing a career as a performer, and for a few years he found moderate success, mostly as a solo. But when he eventually teamed up with Grace Broussard, a singer of Cajun descent who’d also kicked around for a while, the twosome clicked musically.
Grace wasn’t new to singing in a duet — she’d spent some time matching up with her brother, Van Broussard, who was one of the pioneers of what became known as ‘swamp pop’ — but it was the newly-formed duo of Dale and Grace that struck gold in 1963 with “I’m Leaving It Up To You.” The song itself had been written and recorded years earlier by the R&B duo Don and Dewey, who didn’t sell a lot of records with it. (A common occurrence for the under-appreciated pair, but that’s a story for another day.)
Having a number-one record rocketed Dale and Grace to stardom, and when the duo subsequently reached the Top Ten with “Stop and Think It Over,” it looked like continued success was a sure thing. But even though they kept churning out records — enough to fill an album — things went downhill pretty quickly, and within a couple of years they’d gone on to other things. The pair occasionally reunited on stage in later years, and were honored by various regional organizations in the years before Dale’s death at age 67 in 2007. Grace is apparently still around but keeping a low profile these days.