Ted Weems was born in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania, learned to play the violin and trombone, and organized a band at Lincoln School in Pittsburgh. The Ted Weems Orchestra dates to 1923 when Weems was still attending the University of Pennsylvania. By 1925, Weems and orchestra had moved his band to Chicago where work was found in hotels and ballrooms.
The Weems orchestra was among those playing for the inaugural of President Warren Harding; it toured for the MCA Corporation in 1923. The band's first Number one hit was Somebody Stole my Gal for RCA Victor in early 1924.
By 1932, national broadcasts with Jack Benny and Fibber McGee and Molly gave the ensemble national exposure and a recognizable identity. Perry Como joined as vocalist is in 1936. But with the onset of World War II, the orchestra disbanded. Weems himself joined the Merchant Marines but formed a new band after the war. It remained active until the early 1950s.
Weems moved to Chicago with his band around 1928. The Ted Weems Orchestra had more chart success in 1929 with the novelty song "Piccolo Pete", and the #1 hit The Man from the South. The band gained popularity in the 1930s, making regular radio broadcasts. These included Jack Benny's Canada Dry program on NBC during the early 1930s, and the Fibber McGee & Molly program in the late 1930s.
The Ted Weems Orchestra gave singer Perry Como his first national exposure in 1936. His other famous discoveries included was whistler-singer Elmo Tanner, sax player and singer Red Ingle, and Marilyn Maxwell, who left the band for acting and motions pictures. Arranger Joe Haymes is credited with creating the band's jazzy-novelty style.
It was Weems who signed a budding young ventriloquist --14 year old ventriloquist Paul Winchell whose 'partner' Jerry Mahoney inspired a generation of Winchell wannabes of which the writer was one. Inspired by Winchell, I appeared on local TV programs in West Texas with none other than the now legendary Roy Orbison. The money raised on these 'telethons' went to the March of Dimes for polio research.
The whistling on Heartaches is by Elmo Tanner. In a 1960 interview, Tanner revealed that he and Weems had received nothing for the reissue as both men had let their contracts expire while they were in the Merchant Marine. Decca Records also seized the moment, and its reissue of I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now with vocals by Perry Como became another major chart hit.
When the hits began to dry up by the early 50s, Weems became a disc jockey in Memphis, TN, later moving into management positions with the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Perry Como played host to his old boss, Elmo Tanner, and three other Weems band members on his Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall show of October 18, 1961.Ted Weems died of emphysema in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1963.
Ted Weems Orchestra: Baby Doll