top of page

Who was the Dorsey Brothers - and Jimmy Dorsey's - first female vocalist?

This Decca recording would be from either 1934 or 1935 when Kay Weber was the Doresey Brothers vocalist. (In late 1935 the two Dorsey Brothers - Jimmy and Tommy would split, and Kay Weber would remain with Jimmy Dorsey

She was born July 2, 1909, in Ellinwood, to Frank and Magdalen Weber. He owned Weber Furniture and Funeral Home. Katherine learned to play piano and organ at an early age, playing at mass at the Catholic Church in Ellinwood. (In the 1924-26 period would that have been St. Joseph's church or St's Peter and Paul church?)

Kay Weber's first paying job was playing for silent movies at the Ellinwood Theatre. (Presumably that would have been 1925-1926) She graduated from Ellinwood High School in 1926 and moved to Denver where she received a bachelor's degree in music from the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music.

Kay Weber paid her way through school by acting in radio dramas on Denver's NBC-affilitated KOA radio station where she also sang.

Glenn Miller discovered her in Denver while she was with the Smith Ballew band in 1934. He brought Weber back to New York, where she made her first recordings with Ballew’s band. She also recorded with Art Kahn that year.

When Ballew’s orchestra broke up in late 1934, Miller and several of its musicians formed the nucleus of the new Dorsey Brothers band, with Weber as female vocalist, singing alongside Bob Crosby. After Tommy walked out on the band in 1935, Weber remained with Jimmy. The elder Dorsey’s orchestra soon began to appear on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall program, broadcast out of Los Angeles, leaving Weber with little to do, as she only occasionally joined them on the show and the band rarely played live. Recordings with Dorsey:

She felt her career stagnating and decided to leave in mid-1936, returning to New York, where she joined former bandmate Bob Crosby’s band in August at the Lexington Hotel, becoming their first female vocalist.

Weber became an integral part of the Crosby group’s sound during its heyday, making some of her most popular recordings with them. In 1938, she also recorded a duet with Sonny Schuyler for Decca. Well-liked by all, band members nicknamed her Mother Weber for her tendency to look after them. While with the group, Weber started a relationship with trombonist Ward Sillaway which resulted in their marriage in July 1938. She left the Crosby band by May of that year during its long-run at the Blackhawk in Chicago. Recordings with Crosby:

According to one source, Kay Weber then accepted a “similar position” with Peter Stevens’ orchestra back in New York, where husband Sillaway went to join Tommy Dorsey’s band.

Despite her success as a singer, Weber always had her heart set on becoming an actress. Her dream never came true however. After her departure from Crosby, she dropped off the public’s radar, only appearing in notices related to the birth of her children and a 1941 songwriting team-up with pianist Joe Sullivan. Weber and Sillaway had four children, the first born in 1940. They eventually settled in Dallas, Texas, where Weber taught music. Kay Weber passed away there in 2005 at the age of 96. Additional Citations: Blog Contributed by: Charles Frodsham, Beloit, Kansas June 2023

105 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 comentário

Very good read about Kay Weber. My parents danced to the Dorsey Orchestra at the Cotillion in Wichita.

bottom of page