The passing of a great jazz singer

BY GRAHAM McDONALD

As the NFSA was preparing to award its first Sound Heritage Award to Dr Karl Neuenfeldt for his work in documenting the music of the Torres Strait region, we heard of the death of jazz and blues singer Georgia Lee in her home town of Cairns at the age of 89.

She was born Dulcie Pitt, with her parents a blend of Jamaican, Aboriginal, Islander and Scottish background, and started singing with her sisters as the Harmony Trio entertaining American servicemen in Cairns during the Second World War. After the war she moved south to develop her career as Georgia Lee, recording with the Graeme Bell Band in 1949 for Melbourne radio and then travelled to England where she sang with Geraldo and his Orchestra before returning to Australia.

In 1962 she recorded Georgia Lee Sings the Blues Down Under, only the second LP recorded by a female singer in Australia and one of the first stereo recordings made in this country. The record was added to the NFSA’s Recorded Sound Registry − Sounds of Australia − in 2009 and re-released on CD shortly afterwards.

Even close to 50 years after it was recorded, the album still sounds pretty good, showcasing one of the great jazz/blues singers Australia has produced. The NFSA offers its sympathy and respects to the Pitt family.