Although he died a half-century ago, Ted Weems is still remembered by a lot of older music fans. An early jazz musician and bandleader, Weems was very popular in the prohibition era and would later introduce fans to Perry Como, but is probably most remembered now for the late 1940s popularity of “Heartaches” — even though he’d made the record many years earlier.
A native of the Pittsburgh area, Wilfred Theodore Wemyes was well-equipped for a musical career. He’d learned both violin and trombone while growing up, and he also had the drive that propelled him into leading his own band by the tender age of 21. It didn’t take long for his bunch to become a popular attraction on the 1920s jazz scene, and it did even better when he later moved its home base to Chicago.
The band had early hits with songs like “Somebody Stole My Gal” and the novelty tune, “Piccolo Pete,” and it addition to performing on tour it also became a popular attraction on radio. The success continued into the 1930s as Weems provided the start for a number of future stars, among them Marilyn Maxwell, who would later be a big hit in Hollywood (and will soon be featured on the GMC), and Perry Como.
But when World War II came along, Weems broke up the group and joined the Merchant Marines. In the post-war years he restarted things, but it turned out that the band’s biggest success would be a tune they’d recorded in 1933 and pretty much forgotten. It all occurred when a North Carolina DJ found the old record of “Heartaches” and began playing it, and listeners soon began to request it over and over. The record company reissued the original platter and Weems’ new group also re-recorded the song, and it became a nationwide hit. Unfortunately, Weems’ newly-found fame didn’t last and within a few years he had retired from performing. He died in 1963 at age 61.