He led a popular West Coast big band off and on for over 40 years. Many future artists got their start with his band, and his orchestra backed-up Bing Crosby on the 1932 Crosby hit “Please.”
Bandleader and pianist Anson Weeks was born in 1896 in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco. He assembled his first band in 1924, following in the footsteps of another San Francisco music pioneer, Art Hickman. Early on, the Weeks orchestra played in hotels along the West Coast. By 1927 the band had gained enough notoriety to be signed to a seven-year engagement at the popular Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Columbia records offered him a recording contract in 1928.
A pioneer of early Jazz and Big Band music, Anson Weeks styled his orchestra after Paul Whiteman and the aforementioned Art Hickman, although music critics more often compare Weeks music to that of “sweet bands” such as Richard Himber and Hal Kemp.
During the band’s engagement at the Mark Hopkins, Weeks began live radio broadcasts from the hotel in 1930 for the NBC West Coast network, which ran nightly for a year; his popular “Lucky Strike Magic Carpet” show soon followed, airing Coast-to-Coast on NBC starting in 1931.
With growing national attention, the Weeks organization attracted a number of “up-and-coming” performers including Art Wilson, Donald Novis, Tony Martin and a ‘pre-cowgirl’ Dale Evans. In addition, several future big band leaders got their first break in show business with Anson’s band including Bob Crosby (Bing’s brother), Carl Ravazza and Xavier Cugat.
In 1932 Weeks’ recording firm, Columbia, used the band to back Bing Crosby on an early Crosby hit, “Please.” Later that same year, Weeks signed with Brunswick and recorded prolifically for them through 1935 under the moniker “Anson Weeks & His Hotel Mark Hopkins Orchestra”, using the tag line “Let’s Go Dancin’ with Anson” as an added promotional piece. The band later recorded for Decca Records.
By 1934, Weeks’ notoriety was such that he was hired away from the Mark Hopkins Hotel by the St. Regis Hotel in New York, enjoying continued success on the East Coast. Live radio broadcasts and solid record sales heightened the band’s popularity even more, and it was soon a consistent draw in many of the most celebrated ballrooms of the early big band era.
By the early 1940’s, the Weeks band was traveling to perform at venues across the nation (so-called “one night stands”). The outbreak of World War Two soon slowed travel for most bands due to tire and gas rationing, but not soon enough to prevent Anson from being badly injured in an accident. In late 1941 Weeks was involved in a bus accident that left his right arm severely damaged. Multiple surgeries were required to correct his injuries, which kept him off the bandstand for most of the big band era’s peak period. Frustrated, he quit the music business to sell cars and real estate back in his native San Francisco Bay Area.
In the late ‘40’s, Weeks returned to the bandstand, signing a recording contract with the Berkeley, California recording firm Fantasy Records. At Fantasy, Anson recorded a series of very successful dance albums (“Dancin’ with Anson”) that became quite popular regionally (and were still in the catalog through the 1970s).
Anson Weeks hits include “I’m Writing You This Little Melody” (theme song), “I’m Sorry Dear”, “The Breeze”, and “Me Minus You” and “Let’s Fly Away.” He retired for a while from music in the late 1950’s, but by the early ’60s he was back on the bandstand, where he continued to lead the band until succumbing to emphysema in 1969, one week before his 73rd birthday.
Swing Street Radio features many fine and sometimes rare recordings of Anson Weeks & His Orchestra, including rare radio performances on the “Swing Street Ballroom”, Friday nights at 10PM/Pacific with host Craig Roberts.