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Dale and Grace

This will be the 58th November since Dale Houston and Grace Broussard stood outside the Dallas hotel where they and their group were staying. They were waiting for a motorcade to zoom by.  

Grace was a native of Prairieville, Louisiana. Houston was born in Mississippi but spent a lot of time in Louisiana. Both were rock-doo-wop type singers with a touch of Louisiana swamp pop whose talents had been overheard by Sam Montel, a record producer. He thought the two should join together and make a few records, so it happened that in September 1963 the two, to be known professionally as Dale and Grace, test recorded at Montel’s studio in Baton Rouge a few songs, including one that really caught the producer’s attention. He sensed a hit.

In 1957 a California duo named Don and Dewey had recorded a soul version of their song called “I am Leaving it Up to You.” The recording never had much traction, but Montel was aware of it and thought it might work for Dale and Grace. What came out of the speaker was a romantic ballad dealing with a couple in love, but uncertain about their future. By 1963 a nation filled with post -war teenage baby boomers facing the same realities was listening. The slow dance song was what was referred to back then as a “belly rubber” adding to the emotion as the duo pined away.

I’m leaving’ it all up to you; You decide what you’re gonna do; Now do you want my love? Or are we through?… 

My heart in my hand; I don’t understand; Baby, what, what have I done wrong? I worship, I worship the ground that you walk on  That’s why I’m leavin’ it up to you; You decide what you’re gonna do; Now do you want my love? Or are we through?

By October 1963, the song was climbing on the national charts. Dick Clark, the host of the national American Bandstand TV dance show, and easily the most powerful entrepreneur of the genre, included the duo in his travelling “Cavalcade of Stars.”

And so it was that on that Friday morning, November 22, the cavalcade had moved into Dallas for a performance that evening. Despite all the stars in the show, including teen wonders Bobby Vee and Jimmy Clanton, the biggest name in town was heading down the street in a limousine. For the moment, John Kennedy had achieved rock star status. Grace would recall waving at the President and thought that maybe he had waved to her.

Three blocks further down, as the presidential motorcade turned on to Elm Street and passed the Texas School Book Depository, the day, indeed the world, suddenly changed. By night the nation had shut down, including the “Cavalcade of Stars” whose performances in Dallas, and then Oklahoma City scheduled for the next night, were cancelled. 

Those shows would have been especially meaningful for Dale and Grace because that very week their song had reached Number 1 in the nation on the prestigious Billboard Magazine charts and had earned a gold record for selling over a million copies.

 For a moment, before the tragedy, national greatness has intersected on Main Street in Dallas. There was the dashing young president and a couple from Louisiana whose song had moved the nation. 

“Leaving It Up to You” achieved a dubious immortality not only for its rapid rise to Number 1, but also because it occupied that spot during the week of the assassination. As it happened, Dale and Grace were among the last people to see the President alive.

Like the couple in the song, a confused nation was asking what it was going to do.

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