115 years ago today, the prolific bandleader Ted Weems was born. He had hits with “Piccolo Pete” and “Heartaches”, and co-wrote such songs as “Oh, Mo’nah” and “Jig Time”. In commemoration of the occasion, here is his first record.
Weems was born Wilfred Theodore Wemyes on September 26, 1901 in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania. He began his musical path when he entered a contest to win a pony, but wound up with a violin instead. He later took up the trombone as well. Weems organized his first band while in school, and did so again in college with a more professional group that took professional engagements at hotels and restaurants. In 1921, Weems’ band played at the inauguration of President Warren G. Harding. The Weems band made their first record in 1923 for the Victor Talking Machine Company, with whom they continued to record for the next ten years. After leaving Victor, the Weems band recorded for Columbia, and then Decca. Like many bands and musicians of that day and age, much of their success was found on the airwaves. During the war, Weems joined the Merchant Marines and led their band. After a period of relative dormancy, Weems’ popularity was revived in 1947 when a North Carolina disc jockey played his uptempo rumba recording of “Heartaches” from 1933, which was met with unexpected enthusiasm from the public. After that unexpected success, Victor reissued the record, and Decca followed suit with a reissue of their recording of the same tune that Weems had cut in 1938, both of which became hits. Weems organized a new band, which stayed together until 1953. Ten years later, in 1963, Ted Weems died of emphysema.
Victor 19212 was recorded on November 20, 1923 in Camden, New Jersey, the first sides ever cut by Ted Weems’ Orchestra. Both sides were originally made as tests, but must’ve impressed the higher-ups, as they wound up being assigned masters and issued. The band consists of Art Weems and Paul Creedon on trumpets, Ted Weems on trombone, Norman Nugent and Walter Livingston clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, and bass sax, Francis Buggy on clarinet, soprano sax, and tenor sax, Charles Gaylord on violin, Reuel Kenyon on piano, Weston Vaughan on banjo, George Barth on tuba and string bass, and Cecil Richardson on drums.
First up, Weems’ band plays the western-themed “Covered Wagon Days”.
On the reverse, they play a superb instrumental rendition of the old standard “Somebody Stole My Gal”.