On this day in music history: November 23, 196…

On this day in music history: November 23, 1963 – “I’m Leaving It Up To You” by Dale and Grace hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks and peaking at #6 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Don Harris and Dewey Terry, it is the biggest hit for the pop vocal duo from Baton Rouge, LA. Singer Dale Houston makes his debut in 1960 with “Lonely Man” after performing in the same Ferriday, LA bar that rock & roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis is discovered at. Though a solid vocalist and songwriter, Houston’s solo efforts do not generate any major hits. In 1963, Montel-Michele Records co-founder Sam Montel suggests to Houston that he adds a female duet partner to his act. Montel pairs him up with another local singer named Grace Broussard. They begin working on material when Dale begins playing “I’m Leaving It Up To You”, written and originally recorded in 1957 by the R&B duo Don & Dewey. Don Harris and Dewey Terry, Jr. both from Pasadena, CA, release their version on Art Rupe’s Specialty Records. Waking up out of a sound sleep in the next room, Montel overhears them, moving the label boss to burst into the room excitedly exclaim, “play it again, that’s a hit!!!”. Soon after they are in the studio and quickly record “I’m Leaving It Up To You”, which is picked up by KNUZ in Houston, TX. Before it’s re-released, Montel wants to re-record the strings which he notices are a half step out of tune, but is convinced to leave it as is. From there, Philadelphia, PA based Jamie/Guyden Records (Duane Eddy, The Fantastic Johnny “C”, Mercy) it picks up for national distribution. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on October 5, 1963, it shoots to the top of the chart seven weeks later, replacing Nino Tempo & April Stevens’ “Deep Purple” at the top. The song hits number one in the US when President John F. Kennedy is assassinated, and most ironically, Dale and Grace are in Dallas, TX on the same day on tour with Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars. The duo are actually among the crowd of spectators watching and waving to the presidential motorcade just a few blocks away from where the assassination takes place. They are unaware of the tragic event that occurs only minutes later until hours after the fact. Dale And Grace only score one more major hit with the follow up “Stop And Think It Over” (#8 Pop) in early 1964, before parting ways in 1965. “I’m Leaving It Up To You” becomes a major hit again more than a decade later in 1974, when it is covered by Donny & Marie Osmond, peaking at #4 on the Hot 100, topping the AC chart, and is also covered by Linda Ronstadt. Songwriter Don “Sugarcane” Harris goes on to greater fame as a backing musician for numerous artists including Frank Zappa, John Mayall, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Otis and Little Richard. After thirty years apart, Dale And Grace reunite and perform together until Dale Houston’s death in 2007.