Australian Biography: Graeme Bell


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1996, 27 Minutes.

Often described as “the father of Australian jazz”, Graeme Bell had a 60-year love affair with music, both as a performer and a composer. 

Graeme grew up in a Melbourne home filled with music. His mother, a professional contralto, had toured with Dame Nellie Melba. Graeme himself studied classical piano for many years before settling on jazz music. 

After forming Graeme Bell’s Dixieland Jazz Band in the early years of World War Two, he entertained troops across northern Queensland. Once the war ended, he and the band toured Czechoslovakia, Korea, Japan and the UK. He is credited with bringing jazz to Czechoslovakia and jazz-dancing to England. 

In 1957, after a struggle with alcoholism, Graeme moved to Sydney where he set up Graeme Bell’s All Stars and recorded over 20 albums. He and his third wife Dorothy lived in a Sydney beachside suburb where he wrote his autobiography Graeme Bell, Australian Jazz Man

Bell was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1978 for "valuable service to jazz music" and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1990 for "service to music, particularly jazz".

Graeme was still performing onstage into his 90s.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

NB The Australian Biography series (1-11) are only available for sale within the territories of Australia and New Zealand.


Director: Frank Heimans

Interviewer: Robin Hughes

Year: 1996

Running Time: 27 Minutes

Classification: G

Curriculum Links: Contemporary Australian Society; Composition and Musicology; Jazz Studies; Music, Culture and Society; Jazz Performance; Performance/Improvisation.


Australian Biography: Don Burrows

SKU 199400901
Brand Film Australia

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