Australian Legend - Slim Dusty
When Slim Dusty died on 19 September 2003, such was his fame and popularity that he was accorded a State funeral. Thousands gathered at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney to farewell a great Australian bushman and balladeer. It didn't seem a bit incongruous that the Anglican Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen, should lead the congregation in singing one of Slim's signature tunes, 'The Pub With No Beer'.
Slim Dusty was one of Australia's best known country music singers and had devoted a lifetime to entertaining and singing about life on the isolated cattle stations of outback Australia. He wrote and sang of droving camps and cooks, of shearers, battlers, tramps, horsemen and cattlemen.
Slim also put to music some iconic poems of Australian poets such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson. By putting these poems to music he hoped to keep alive the old bush ballads and to bring their charms to new and younger generations of Australians.
He was born David Gordon Kirkpatrick on 13 June 1927 on a dairy farm at Nulla Nulla Creek near Kempsey, New South Wales. At the age of 10, he wrote his first song and the following year, he changed his name to Slim Dusty. His first classic, When the Rain Tumbles Down in July, was written in 1945 while still at Nulla Nulla Creek. (I can remember singing this while riding my rocking horse!)
In 1946 he signed a recording contract with the Columbia Graphophone Company for the Regal Zonophone label. He remained with the same recording company throughout his life and recorded 100 albums with them.
The Years 1950 to 1960
In 1951, he married Joy McKean, a country singer-songwriter like himself. In 1954, he began a show business career as a full-time profession and launched the travelling Slim Dusty Show. Two years later, he teamed with showman Frankie Foster and toured the showground circuit, performing in a tent at both large and small agricultural shows.
He recorded The Pub With No Beer in 1957, receiving Australia's first Gold Record in 1958. Cover versions of this song became hits in Germany, Austria and Belgium.
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1960 to 1970
By 1964, he had ended his association with Foster and made the first of many 30,000 mile, ten month journeys bringing country music to towns large and small throughout the length and breadth of Australia. This mighty trip became the subject of a feature film, 'The Slim Dusty Movie' in 1984. His first tour outside Australia was in 1969 when he travelled to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Slim recorded a tribute song, Namatjira, to the Australian Indigenous artist, Albert Namatjira during this period.
1970 to 1980
In 1973, the first Australasian Country Music Awards were instigated at Tamworth. As long-distance trucking became a part of life in the more remote regions, Slim and Joy began to write some wonderful trucking songs. One of these was 'Lights on the Hill' which won Best EP for Slim and Song of the Year for Joy in 1973.
In 1978, he performed for the first time at the Sydney Opera House. The following year he published his autobiography 'Walk A Country Mile'.
Through all these years, he mapped Australia's history in song, always staying in touch with the people of the bush and country. Slim's songs were always 'fair dinkum' songs about real Australians.
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including Pub WithNo Beer and
The Rain Tumbles Down in July.
1980 to 1990
His 50th album, The Golden Anniversary Album, was released in 1981. Numerous other awards and accolades followed. 'Duncan' achieved Gold status. Slim released his 50th album, a feature film, his 'Trucks on the Track' was awarded Album of the Year and Top Selling Album at Tamworth and he was given a 350 guest dinner by EMI Australia. In 1988, Australia's Bicentennial Year, Slim toured Australia with the biggest country music show ever to tour the nation. He won the Heritage Award for 'We've Done Us Proud' and recorded his first duo album with his daughter, Anne. In 1990 Slim was presented with a special award as 'Artist of the Decade'. The Australia Day Council named him an 'Achiever of the Year'.
1990 to 2000
In 1992, Slim was involved in the establishment of the Country Music Association of Australia and became its Chairman. In 1993, he celebrated 50 years of continuous recording in Australia. A display of memorabilia collected by Slim and Joy was opened in 1995 at the Australian Country Music Foundation's (ACMF) Museum in Tamworth. This vibrant history of country music is now the centrepiece of the ACMF's Australian Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 1996, Slim re-recorded his 1980 No 1 Australian hit, Duncan with another iconic Australian, Rolf Harris. In May 1997, Slim accompanied Thompson's Transport across the Nullabor in two Kenworth road trains. This was to gather material for his next truck album. In July 1997, Slim published his second autobiography 'Another Day, Another Town'. In August, Slim appeared in Nashville on the Grand Ol' Opry by special invitation to mark his 50 years of commercial recording for the one company. Also in 1997, he was awarded Golden Guitars for Bush Ballad of the Year and Heritage Song of the Year.
In 1998, he was voted a National Living Treasure and received a Living Legend Award. In 1999, Slim had sudden and urgent cardiac surgery. He was soon back singing and recording. In the year 2000, he appeared for a second time on 'This Is Your Life', the only person to have been afforded this honour twice. In September of the same year, he closed the Sydney Olympic Games with a rendition of Waltzing Matilda, telecast to millions. Also in July 2000, his 100th album 'Looking Forward, Looking Back' was released and went gold in five weeks.
He received 37 Golden Guitar Awards, an MBE (Member of the British Empire) and an Order of Australia. In 1999, he was named Australia's Father of the Year and Senior Australian of the Year.
Australia Post honoured Slim with his own stamp. In 2002, Slim released his first ever DVD 'The Very Best of' and 'Travellin' Still.. Always Will' went Gold. In 2007, domestic sales of his records surpassed 7 million.
Slim had a number of 'firsts' to his name.
- First Australian to have a number one hit record
- First Australian to have an international hit record
- First singer to have his voice beamed from the space shuttle 'Columbia' back to earth in 1983.
Slim's two children, Anne and David Kirkpatrick, were also accomplished singer-songwriters, with Anne going on to carve her own very successful career in the business. Slim's wife, Joy, wrote some of his most successful songs and there were others who also wrote songs for him. The Australian bush, its spell over its people and the outback characters he met were recurring themes. With his songs, Slim chronicled the changes of post-war Australia.
His collection of gold and platinum albums was greater than that of any other Australian writer. Slim Dusty was certainly a legend in his lifetime.