Slim Dusty was an Australian country music singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer, who was an Australian cultural icon and one of the country's most awarded stars.
He’s known universally as Australia’s King of Country, and it’s a title to which Slim Dusty can still lay an unchallenged claim, close to a decade after he passed away and took up his place at the head of the table in Country Music Heaven.
Slim has been the face of Australian country music for its entire history – close to 70 years, since its early roots in hillbilly and folk music. In that time, he evolved with the industry – setting the agenda and changing with the times.
Born David Gordon Kirkpatrick in 1927, at Nulla Nulla Creek near Kempsey, Slim changed his name in 1938 at the age of 11 and never looked back.
In 1951 he married fellow country singer Joy McKean, and the pair set off on a lifetime of travelling Australia, performing the music that emerged from their much-loved homeland, and that conveyed its passion and spirit so well. Along the way, they brought daughter Anne Kirkpatrick and son David Kirkpatrick into the world.
With a career spanning nearly seven decades and numerous recordings, Slim Dusty was the archetypical "Father of Country Music". He was known to record songs in the legacy of Australia particularly of bush life. He was influenced by the style of renowned Australian bush poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson that represented the lifestyle. The music genre was coined the "bush ballad", a style first made popular by Buddy Williams, the first artist to perform the genre in Australia, and also for his many trucking songs.
Dusty was the first Australian to have a No. 1 international hit song, with a version of Gordon Parsons' "A Pub with No Beer". He received an unequalled 37 Golden Guitar and two Australian Recording Industry Association(ARIA) awards and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and the Country Music Roll of Renown.
At the time of his death, at the age of 76, Dusty had been working on his 106th album for EMI Records.
In 2007, his domestic record sales in Australia surpassed seven million. During his lifetime, Dusty was considered an Australian National Treasure. He performed "Waltzing Matilda", Australia's national song, at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
A Pub With No Beer
"A Pub With No Beer" was adapted by Gordon Parsons from the original poem "A Pub Without Beer" by Dan Sheahan of Ingham, North Queensland (originally from Newmarket, Ireland) in the Day Dawn Hotel, now known as Lees Hotel, Ingham, Queensland.
It's believed the song was first performed in public by Gordon Parsons in 1954 at the 50th birthday of George Thomas, a resident of Creek Ridge Road, Glossodia (near Windsor in Sydney). It was performed with an extra verse that was dropped from Slim Dusty's recorded version, because it contained elements of blue humour.
In 1957, "A Pub With No Beer" became the first Australian single to become a gold record and was the biggest-selling record by an Australian at the time. It was the first single by an Australian artist to enter the British charts, reaching number three. In 1959, Dusty wrote and recorded a sequel "The Answer To A Pub With No Beer", explaining the reason for the beer delivery truck's failure to arrive and describing the townsmen's efforts to solve the problem. Another sequel, "The Sequel To A Pub With No Beer", shows that the town now has a guaranteed delivery, thanks to air freight.
"A Pub With No Beer" became the first Australian single to become a gold record and was the biggest-selling record by an Australian at the time.
In 1959, Dusty wrote and recorded a sequel "The Answer To A Pub With No Beer"
"The Sequel To A Pub With No Beer", shows that the town now has a guaranteed delivery, thanks to air freight.
In May 2001, Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) celebrated its 75th anniversary by naming the Best Australian Songs of all time. As decided by a 100 strong industry panel, "A Pub With No Beer" was ranked fifth on the list. In June 2008, the song was included in the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry.
Slim Dusty Honours & Milestones
Slim Dusty, as Australia's most successful and prolific musical artist, had more Gold and Platinum albums than any other Australian artist. Slim Dusty was also:
- The first Australian to receive a Gold Record.
- The first Australian to have an international record hit (A Pub with No Beer).
- Made a Member of the Order of the British Empire and an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to entertainment.
- The first artist broadcast from space when astronauts played his rendition of Waltzing Matilda from Space Shuttle Columbia as it passed over Australia on its maiden flight in 1981.
- The winner of an unequalled 38 Golden Guitar awards from 72 nominations at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. (see www.country.com.au/cmaa-awards/winners-archive)
- One of the earliest members of Australia's country music Roll of Renown.
- The achiever of more Gold Record and Platinum Record Awards than any other Australian artist.
- Inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and the ARIA Special Achievement Award.
- The Royal Australian Mint issued a coin celebrating his life.
- Slim Dusty 's image was featured on an Australia Post, postage stamp
Slim Dusty's Legacy
- EMI Records' Australian sales of Slim Dusty records surpassed 7 million in 2007.
- Slim Dusty was a guest on the Wiggles' children DVD "Wiggly Wiggly World".
- His daughter Anne Kirkpatrick is also an award-winning country singer.
- Slim's life was the subject of a 1984 feature film: The Slim Dusty Movie
- The 2010 book 100 Best Australian Albums by Toby Creswell, Craig Mathieson and John O'Donnell ranked The Very Best of Slim Dusty as the 24th best Australian album of the last 50 years.
- Slim Dusty had a Floribunda Rose named in his honour, which is a Golden Orange Coppery toned bloom, reminiscent of the Australian Outback, that Slim often wrote and sang about.
Slim’s legacy is remembered in many ways: through his music, his many awards, and the numerous other artists he helped along the way. The Slim Dusty Centre, opened in October 2015 in Slim’s hometown of Kempsey, showcases an extensive collection of treasured memorabilia of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean, as well as contributions from fans and friends all over the world.