Kay Weber

Photo of Kay Weber
  • Birth Name

    Katherine Christine Weber
  • Born

    July 2, 1909
    Ellinwood, Kansas
  • Died

    September 23, 2005 (age 96)
    Dallas, Texas
  • Orchestras

    Bob Crosby
    Smith Ballew
    Dorsey Brothers
    Jimmy Dorsey

Though she worked during the dawn of the swing era, vocalist Kay Weber spent most of her career with two-beat jazz bands. Weber appeared with some of the most popular musicians and orchestras during the 1930s but left show business after getting married in 1938.

Born in Ellinwood, Kansas, Weber grew up in the small town of Lakin in the western part of the state, where her father owned a furniture store.[1] Her grandparents on both sides were German immigrants. The family later returned to Ellinwood in the early 1920s, where her father managed a furniture store and Weber graduated high school in 1926.[2] At some point after April 1930, Weber moved to Denver, where she studied dramatics at Lamont.[3] She paid her way through school by acting in radio dramas on local station KOA, where she also sang. Glenn Miller discovered her while in the city with Smith Ballew 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 spring 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. 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. According to one source, she accepted a “similar position” with Peter Stevens’ orchestra in New York, where 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 three children, the first born in 1940. They eventually settled in Dallas, Texas, where Weber taught music. Kay Weber passed away in 2005 at the age of 96.[4]


  1. Lakin had around 300 residents at the time of Weber’s youth. ↩︎

  2. A question arises on Weber’s place of birth. Weber gave it as Ellinwood, yet the family lived in Lakin when Weber was nine months old. Did she give the wrong city? It’s possible that the family moved from Ellinwood to Lakin when she was a baby and then back to Ellinwood again in the 1920s. Ellinwood is known for its German heritage, and Weber’s family was German. Ellinwood had over a thousand residents at the time Weber attended high school. ↩︎

  3. Lamont was an arts school located in Denver. In 1941, it merged with the University of Denver and is today known as the university’s Lamont School of Music. ↩︎

  4. Weber was another female vocalist who didn’t give her true age. In a May 1937 interview she stated that she was 25. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Dorsey Brothers to Play at Greensburg.” The Uniontown Morning Herald [Uniontown, Pennsylvania] 21 Feb. 1935: 9.
  3. Advertisement. “Meadowbrook.” The North Adams Transcript [North Adams, Massachusetts] 6 May 1935: 3.
  4. “Bands and Orchestras.” Billboard 18 Jan. 1936: 14.
  5. “Behind the Microphones.” Indiana Evening Gazette [Indiana, Pennsylvania] 13 Feb. 1936: 12.
  6. “Night Club Reviews: Palomar, Los Angeles.” Billboard 28 Mar. 1936: 30.
  7. “Crosby Crew Continues Screwy Shows.” Down Beat Jan. 1937: 3.
  8. “The Crosby Cats and Their Hobbies.” Down Beat Mar. 1937: 6.
  9. Kaufman, Dave. “Bob Crosby, Kay Weber Talk of Famous Crooner.” Mason City Globe Gazette [Mason City, Iowa] 26 May 1937: 17.
  10. Humphrey, Harold. “Chicago.” Billboard 2 Jul. 1938: 8.
  11. “Ellinwood Girl Weds In Chicago.” Billboard 3 Jul. 1938: 7.
  12. “Kay Weber, Ward Sillaway Have Son.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1940: 2.
  13. “New Numbers.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1940: 10.
  14. Rodin, Gil. “How the Crosby Band Got Started.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1940: 21.
  15. Egan, Jack. “Park Hill Building Bug Is Nipping at the Musicians.” Down Beat 1 May 1941: 21.
  16. “New Numbers.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1942: 10.
  17. “United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, Births, and Marriages 1980-2014,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QK2H-D63T : accessed 21 September 2022), Kay Sillaway Weber, Texas, United States, 26 Sep 2005; from “Recent Newspaper Obituaries (1977 - Today),” database, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 2014); citing Dallas Morning News, The, born-digital text.
  18. “United States, Social Security Numerical Identification Files (NUMIDENT), 1936-2007,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6K9Q-JY8B : 10 February 2023), Katharine C Sillaway in entry for Katharine Christine Sillaway.
  19. “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2HL-MD4 : Thu Mar 07 02:12:22 UTC 2024), Entry for Frank Weber and Magvalene Weber, 1910.
  20. “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KNWG-KYC : Fri Mar 08 11:14:39 UTC 2024), Entry for Frank Weber and Magdalen Weber, 1920.
  21. “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X736-STZ : Fri Mar 08 10:29:50 UTC 2024), Entry for Frank Weber and Lena Weber, 1930.