Georgia Lee Sings the Blues Down Under by Georgia Lee
Yarra River Blues is one of two Australian tracks to feature on Georgia Lee’s 1962 album ‘Georgia Lee Sings The Blues’.
Summary by Brenda Gifford
Yarra River Blues and Down Under Blues are the two Australian songs on an album featuring jazz standards like 'Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen’. This track was recorded in Melbourne by Crest records and showcases Georgia’s crystal-clear voice, individual phrasing and haunting style.
The opening lyrics of the song suggest the singer has lost her baby to the Yarra River, which 'swept him out to the deep blue sea’. It seems appropriate for a homegrown blues song to be highlighting the dangers of the Australian environment, a common theme in films like Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), and especially only a few years before prime minister Harold Holt would be swept out to sea in Victoria, never to be seen again.
At the time, Lee was labeled the ‘Original Diva of Jazz and Blues Down Under’. In 1999 the album was re-released, her voice sounding just as fresh. The full track listing for the album is:
1. Beale Street Blues
2. Pete Kelly’s Blues
3. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
4. Careless Love
5. Yarra River Blues
6. Basin St Blues
7. Born to be Blue
8. Blues in the Night
9. Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen
10. Down Under Blues
11. St Louis Blues
Georgia Lee Sings the Blues synopsis
After a successful career in London, Georgia Lee returned to Australia and recorded ‘Georgia Lee Sings the Blues Down Under’. She became only the second female artist to release a long-playing record in Australia and surely the first Indigenous female singer to do so. This was also the first Australian album to be recorded in stereo.
In 1962 Georgia Lee (Dulcie Lyra Rumia Pitt, 1922–2010), hailing from Cairns in far north Queensland and of Torres Strait Islander origin, recorded ‘Georgia Lee Sings the Blues Down Under’ for the Crest label in Melbourne.
During the Second World War, American troops created a mania for jazz in the cities of northern Australia, particularly in Queensland. Maintaining morale kept local musicians busy, including the Pitt sisters – Dulcie, Sophie and Heather. They toured Queensland as The Harmony Sisters, entertaining US troops in Australia.
After the war, Dulcie reinvented herself as Georgia Lee, singing blues and jazz in southern Australian cities. In the 1950s, Georgia Lee toured the United Kingdom on a contract with the Geraldo Dance Band and also worked with Nat King Cole during his tour of Australia in February 1956. She continued to perform after illness forced her to return to Australia.
The album contains some jazz standards, including Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Beale Street Blues and Careless Love. It is also noted for two Australian tracks, Down Under Blues and Yarra River Blues.
Notes by Brenda Gifford