Though she worked during the dawn of the swing era, Kay Weber spent most of her career singing for two-beat jazz bands. Born and raised in Ellinwood, Kansas, Weber graduated high school in 1926 and later moved to Denver, where she studied dramatics at Lamont. Weber 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.
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. ↩︎
Weber was another female vocalist who didn’t give her true age. In a May 1937 interview she stated that she was 25, however a hometown notice of her marriage gave her date of high school graduation as 1926, and her obituary gave her birth year as 2009. ↩︎