Anson Weeks was a pioneering West Coast dance band leader and piano player who enjoyed great popularity during the pre-World War II years. His style, informed by the chipper, jazz-influenced sound of earlier West Coast orchestras like those of Paul Whiteman and Ben Pollock but edging into the sweet, danceable approach of Hal Kemp, held sway over northern California for a generation and is fondly remembered by those who were there.
Born in Oakland, CA, in 1896, Weeks formed his first band in 1924. After finding fruitful employment in several upscale hotels in Oakland and Sacramento, Weeks and his orchestra made a test recording ("New Moon") for the Victor label. But, for reasons still unclear, Victor failed to issue a contract and the side was not released. In 1927, the band began what would become a seven-year engagement at the prestigious Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. The following year, the outfit signed with Columbia, which released Anson Weeks & His Orchestra's debut disc, "Dream House" b/w "Wob-a-ly Walk." (Weeks would also go on to record for Brunswick and Decca, as well as other labels.)
In 1929, keying in on Weeks' blossoming success at his steady venue, Columbia began billing the band as Anson Weeks & His Hotel Mark Hopkins Orchestra, using the ensemble's tag line of "Let's Go Dancin' With Anson" as an added promotional device. Weeks began live radio broadcasts from the hotel in 1930 for KFRC and NBC's West Coast network, which ran almost nightly for a year; his popular Lucky Strike Magic Carpet show soon followed, airing coast to coast on NBC. At this time, Weeks' orchestra featured future bandleaders Griff Williams, Xavier Cugat, and Bob Crosby (Bing's brother, in his first engagement as a singer), as well as soon to be star vocalists Tony Martin, Carl Ravazza, and a pre-cowgirl Dale Evans. In 1932, Columbia hired the band to back Bing Crosby on an early hit, "Please."
By 1934, Weeks' status was such that he was able to make the leap to the East Coast, where he moved into the St. Regis Hotel, finding similar success. Record sales and regular air shots heightened the band's profile even more, and it was soon a consistent draw in the most celebrated ballrooms of the early big band days. But then, just as now, the road could be dangerous, and in 1941 Weeks was involved in a bus accident that left his right arm severely mangled. During the following years, he was forced to undergo a series of operations and medical treatments that 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.
Unable to stay away for good, Weeks put together a smaller, seven-piece orchestra in 1956, taking it on tour and signing with Fantasy Records, with whom he recorded three albums. The early '60s found him back in Sacramento, where he continued to lead the band until succumbing to emphysema in 1969.