In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
One morning in November of 1963, the acts from Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars tour stood out on a street corner in Dallas. Bobby Vee was there. So was Brian Hyland, the “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” guy. And so were Dale & Grace, the two Southern kids who had suddenly risen from obscurity and who, that very moment, had the #1 record in the country. They were in Dallas to perform that night, but they were out on the corner that day because President Kennedy was riding by in a parade. All the stars waved to him as he passed. Then, a few minutes later, Kennedy was dead. Dale, Grace, and all the other Caravan Of Stars kids didn’t find out about the assassination until hours later.
It took a few twists of fate for Dale Houston and Grace Broussard to be out on that corner that morning. Houston was a rocker from Mississippi whose career was going nowhere and who, after writing a few singles, found himself singing at a Louisiana bar. There, Sam Montel, Houston’s label boss, introduced him to Grace Broussard, a Louisiana native who was also singing in area bars. Montel thought to put Houston and Broussard together. And the song that took them to #1 was “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” written and recorded by the Californian duo Don & Dewey back in 1957.
Dale & Grace were white, while Don & Dewey were black, but this feels less like a case of racial appropriation than like an obscure song being rescued and brought forth to a bigger audience. Don & Dewey’s version of “I’m Leaving It Up To You” had gone nowhere in 1957, but it was a great song — a doo-wop plea to an indecisive lover, delivered with verve and passion and theatricality.
Dale & Grace’s take on the song was deeply faithful to the original, right down to the satisfyingly familiar chord progression and the simple guitar solo. The Dale & Grace version of the song did have strings and backing vocals, but they sounded cheap and tinny, and they didn’t take away from the song’s urgency. The real difference is in their voices, both deep country twangs that meshed nicely. Broussard in particular has a piercing tenor that cuts right through the track. It’s not a country song, but together, they make it sound country.
Dale & Grace only scored one more hit, a #8 single called “Stop And Think It Over” that’s practically identical to “I’m Leaving It Up To You.” They broke up in 1965, suddenly obsolete in the face of a culture that was moving very, very quickly.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s Linda Ronstadt’s even-more-country cover of “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” from the 1970 album Silk Purse: