THE City of Geelong is 70km from Melbourne – a mere commuter drive – so that musicians and audiences have always flowed between the two.
From the 1920s Geelong enjoyed several dance and swing bands, but arguably the first Geelong traditional jazz band was the Dixieland Ramblers (1943-c.1947) founded by trumpeter Clem Harris. The band played occasional local gigs, made one recording, and welcomed the visits of sit-in musicians including Stewart Speer and Frank “Doc” Willis.
Under the name of the Geelong Jazz Group, the band performed at the first Australian Jazz Convention in 1946. The lineup on that occasion was Ken Evans, trombone; Jack Connelly, clarinet & banjo; Vern Dolheguy, trumpet; Ron Grimison, clarinet; George Barby, piano.
Courtesy of drummer Ian Coots, here is a track from that rare recording of the Dixieland Ramblers, captured in Geelong on 17 January 1946.