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  • Dale Houston and his singing partner Grace Broussard, both performed as Dale and Grace while singing with other singers?

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Dale Houston (April 23, 1940 – September 27, 2007) was an American singer who, along with his performing partner, Grace Broussard, rocketed to the top of the Billboard chart as Dale & Grace with two rock and roll hits - gold records with more than 1 million copies sold - "I'm Leaving It Up to You" (#1) and "Stop and Think It Over" (#8) in 1963 and 1964, respectively. In his later years, Houston was reunited on stage several times with Broussard.

Contents

Life

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Early years

Houston was born to Claude Houston and the former Essie Walters in Seminary, a small town in Covington County in southern Mississippi.[1] He was delivered by a midwife on the family's kitchen table. The Houstons thereafter moved to nearby Collins, the seat of Covington County, where the senior Houston surrendered to the Christian ministry.[2] Young Dale began piano lessons when he was a sixth grader, but the family stopped his training after three months because of financial difficulties. Thereafter, Dale was self-taught: his musical skills were enhanced by playing and singing in church.

At the age of eighteen, Houston recorded "Lonely Man," which reached No. 75 nationally. In 1960, while he was performing in Baton Rouge, record executive Sam Montel (Sam Montalbano) caught Houston's act in a local bar. Montel declared Houston "a pretty good writer" and signed him to compose exclusively for his label. Houston then wrote and recorded "Lonely Man," "Bird With A Broken Wing," and "That's What I Like About You," none of which was particularly successful.

Partnership with Grace Broussard

In 1963, Houston was working in a bar in Ferriday, a small town in Concordia Parish, Louisiana along the Mississippi River. Montel approached Houston about teaming up with a female singer, Grace Broussard (born 1939) of Prairieville in Ascension Parish near Baton Rouge. Both had been singing in area bistros for several years - Grace with her brother, Van Broussard (who later released an album on the Bayou Boogie label).[3][4]

The two met and practiced on Montel's home piano for four hours.[2] When Houston began to play an old song written and recorded in 1957 by African-American performers Don and Dewey— "I'm Leaving It Up To You" — Montel, asleep in the next room, woke up and screamed: “Play it again. That’s a hit!” [1] The song was soon recorded and released locally on Montel's Michelle label.

According to The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, the song broke at Top 40 radio station KNUZ in Houston, where it was unanimously voted the "pick hit of the week" by the station's panel of seven deejays. Montel wanted to change the key in which the violins were recorded, but was persuaded by the KNUZ deejays to leave the recording as it was. It was nationally distributed as Montel#921 by Philadelphia's Jamie/Guyden Records (close to Dick Clark at the time) after negotiations by producer Huey Meaux. [5][4]

Montel's prophesy was vindicated when in late November 1963, "I'm Leaving It Up To You" reached No. 1 on the U.S. chart, where it remained for two weeks.[6] The song also reached #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

In the autumn of 1963, Houston and Broussard toured with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars. He appeared on Clark's American Bandstand program. The Clark caravan, which also included Brian Hyland and Bobby Vee, was standing on a street corner in Dallas waving at President Kennedy on that fateful November 22nd. The limousine was two blocks away from the caravan when the president was killed, and Texas Governor John B. Connally was seriously wounded. The group went back to their hotel rooms after waving to Kennedy, and didn't hear about the assassination until several hours later.[5] ("I'm Leaving It Up To You" was also No. 1 when Kennedy was assassinated.) Six days later, Houston spent Thanksgiving Day at Clark's home.

Dale and Grace then produced "Stop And Think It Over", which went to No. 8 in 1964. However, the popularity of The Beatles, combined with personal problems between the two performers, Grace's homesickness, and a serious illness which landed Dale in the hospital, caused the duo to separate in 1965. Grace returned to singing with brother Van.

Death

Dale Houston died on September 27, 2007 at Wesley Medical Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was survived by four sons, Rusty Houston, of Lafayette, Chuck Houston of Monroe, Gary Wilson, of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Jeffrey Dale Houston, of Baton Rouge; two daughters, Vicki Lynn Houston-Hogg of Monroe, and Robin Houston Cannatella and her husband, John, of Baton Rouge; a brother, Don Houston and his wife, Barbara, of Cut Off in Lafourche Parish; two sisters, Judy Sykes and her husband, Tom, and Claudette Cascio, all of Sanford in Covington County; his singing partner, Grace Broussard, of Prairieville; seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Services were held on October 2, 2007, at the Wade-Nowell Funeral Home in Collins, Mississippi. Singer Troy Shondell gave a musical tribute to Houston, and two ministers, Glen Shoemake and Kendall Walters, officiated. Interment was in Smyrna Cemetery in Collins.

Honors

In 1995, Dale and Grace, having been reunited, were honored in Mississippi through resolutions of the Covington County Board of Supervisors and the Town of Seminary.

In 2000, Houston received the "Louisiana Living Legends Award" from the Public Broadcasting Service. Earlier, he was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame and the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame, both in 1998.

In 2007, newly-elected Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne announced that Houston and Broussard, along with John Fred and the Playboys founded by John Fred Gourrier (1941–2005) of Baton Rouge, were being named to the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame. To garner such an honor, one must have national or international recognition, said the museum director, Judith Bingham. Dale and Grace performed at the festival in Ferriday, where Houston had attended the ninth and tenth grades decades earlier at Ferriday High School.

In October 2007, Dale and Grace were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in Baton Rouge.

"I'm Leaving It Up To You" has been a favorite of male-female duos for years and was performed by Sonny & Cher and Donny and Marie Osmond, who returned it to the top ten in 1974 (under the revised title "I'm Leaving It (All) Up To You") and released an album entitled I'm Leaving It All Up to You. Donny and Marie's version of the song also was a Top 20 country hit and won the 1974 Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group.

References

  1. ^ a b London Times obituary, 18 October 2007
  2. ^ a b Tom Simon, Dale & Grace.
  3. ^ "Artists Biographies". Billboard Magazine 75 (44): 12. November 2, 1963. ISSN 0006-2510.  
  4. ^ a b John Broven, South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. Pelican Publishing Company, 1987, pp.265-6.
  5. ^ a b Fred Bronson, The Billboard book of number 1 hits. Billboard Books, 2003, p.140.
  6. ^ Joel Whitburn, Top Pop Singles 1955-1999 (Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, 2000), 923.
  • Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996).

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