A brief look at the remarkable life of jazz musician Georgia LeeContributors
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Australian Jazz Museum
Georgia Lee was born Dulcie Pitt, in Cairns, Queensland in 1921. She was of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal descent and one of eight children. Dulcie Pitt first began performing folk music with her siblings in the 1930s but her musical style was greatly influenced by exposure to jazz and blues music by American Servicemen during the Second World War.
After the war, Dulcie Pitt moved south and reinvented herself as Georgia Lee. She became a well-known performer in the jazz and blues clubs of Sydney and Melbourne. In 1951, alongside indigenous opera singer, Harold Blair, Georgia Lee took part in the first ever Moomba celebration in Melbourne.
By the early 1950s Georgia Lee decided to go abroad. She travelled and performed with international artists, including touring the United Kingdom on a contract with the Geraldo Dance Band.
Georgia Lee returned to Australia after a ‘nervous collapse’ but she continued to perform at home. She toured with American jazz star Nat King Cole in 1957. In 1962 in Melbourne, she recorded and released Georgia Lee Sings the Blues Downunder for the Crest label. The album has two Australian jazz tracks, Down Under Blues and Yarra River Blues.
Georgia Lee was the first Indigenous female artist and the second Australian female artist to release a long-playing record in Australia. Georgia Lee was also the first Australian to record an album in stereo.
Listen to Yarra River Blues at the National Film & Sound Archive.
Listen to an ABC Radio National interview with music historian Clinton Walker and Wilma Reading, niece of Dulcie Pitt (Georgia Lee).
Georgia Lee performs to a crowd at either the Dendy Theatre in Brighton, Victoria or Ormond Hall in Melbourne, date unknown.