Slim Dusty

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Slim Dusty
At the Golden Guitar awards in Tamworth
At the Golden Guitar awards in Tamworth
Background information
Birth nameDavid Gordon Kirkpatrick
Born(1927-06-13)13 June 1927
Nulla Nulla Creek, New South Wales, Australia
Died19 September 2003(2003-09-19) (aged 76)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • guitarist
  • music producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1945–2003
Spouse(s)Joy McKean

Slim Dusty, AO MBE (born David Gordon Kirkpatrick; 13 June 1927 – 19 September 2003) was an Australian country music singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer. He was an Australian cultural icon and one of the country's most awarded stars, with a career spanning nearly seven decades and producing numerous recordings. He was known to record songs in the legacy of Australia, particularly of bush life and 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.

Slim Dusty "released more than a hundred albums, selling more than seven million records and earning over 70 gold and platinum album certifications". He was the first Australian to have a No. 1 international hit song, with a version of Gordon Parsons' "A Pub with No Beer".[1] He received 38 Golden Guitar and an Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) award. He was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and Australian 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", a very famous song in Australia, at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Early life and career[edit]

David Gordon Kirkpatrick was born on 13 June 1927 in Nulla Nulla Creek west of Kempsey, New South Wales, the son of a cattle farmer. His childhood home, "Homewood", survives and is now heritage-listed. He was known by his middle name, Gordon. He wrote his first song, "The Way the Cowboy Dies", in 1937 and adopted the stage name "Slim Dusty" in 1938 at age 11.[2] His earliest musical influences included the American Jimmie Rodgers, New Zealander Tex Morton, and Australia's own Buddy Williams. In 1945, Dusty wrote "When the Rain Tumbles Down in July" and released his first record that year at the age of 19. In 1946, he signed his first recording contract with Columbia Graphophone for the Regal Zonophone label.[3]

Rise to fame and enduring popularity[edit]

Statue of "The Cunnamulla Fella" erected as a tribute to songwriter Stan Coster and Slim Dusty

In 1951, Dusty married singer-songwriter Joy McKean and, with her help, achieved great success around Australia. In 1954, the two launched a full-time business career, including the Slim Dusty Travelling Show. McKean was Dusty's wife and manager for over 50 years. Together the couple had two children, Anne Kirkpatrick and David Kirkpatrick, who are also accomplished singer-songwriters.[4]

Joy's sister Heather McKean (the other half of the McKean Sisters) married Reg Lindsay in February 1954 and divorced in 1985. The couple had a daughter, Dianne Lindsay, who is also a country music singer.

Joy McKean wrote several of Dusty's most popular songs, including "Lights On The Hill", "Walk a Country Mile", "Indian Pacific", "Kelly's Offsider", "The Angel of Goulburn Hill" and "The Biggest Disappointment".[5]

Although himself an accomplished writer of songs, Dusty had a number of other songwriters, including Mack Cormack, Gordon Parsons, Stan Coster, and Kelly Dixon, who were typically short on formal education but big on personal experience of the Australian bush. Drawing on his travels and such writers over a span of decades, Dusty chronicled the story of a rapidly changing postwar Australian nation.

Nevertheless, the arrival of rock and roll music saw major metropolitan music radio stations abandon support for country artists, and despite record sales in the multimillions, after the 1950s Dusty was rarely heard on-air outside regional centres in Australia.[6]

Dusty's 1957 hit "A Pub with No Beer" was the biggest-selling record by an Australian to that time, the first Australian single to go gold and the first and only 78 rpm record to be awarded a gold disc.[7] (The "Pub with No Beer" is a real place, in Taylors Arm, not far from Kempsey, where Slim was born.)[8] In 1959 and 1960, Dutch and German cover versions of the song became number one hits (even evergreens) in Belgium, Austria and Germany, brought by the Flemish country singer-guitarist and amusement park founder Bobbejaan Schoepen. In 1964 the annual Slim Dusty Australia-round tour, a 48,280 kilometres (30,000 mi) journey that went on for ten months, was started. This regular event was the subject of a feature film, The Slim Dusty Movie, in 1984.

Dusty recorded not only songs written by himself and other fellow Australian performers but also classic Australian poems by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson, with new tunes to call attention to the old "bush ballads". An example is "The Man from Snowy River" by Paterson. The 1980 album and songs The Man Who Steadies the Lead and The Pearl of Them All were the works of Paterson's rival for the title of Australia's bush balladeer, Scottish-Australian poet Will H. Ogilvie (1869–1963). In 1970, Dusty was made a member of the Order of the British Empire for services to music.[9]

In 1973, he won Best Single at the inaugural Country Music Awards of Australia at the Tamworth Country Music Festival (McKean won Song of the Year as writer of "Lights on the Hill"). By March 1976, Dusty had achieved 37 gold and two platinum records, more than any other Australian artist.[10]

Dusty and his wife were patrons of the National Truck Drivers' Memorial, located in Tarcutta, New South Wales.

The general manager of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, Bob Whitaker, invited Dusty and his wife to perform in 1997, recognising 50 years of contributing to country music. The following January, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his service to the entertainment industry.[11]

Dusty recorded and released his 100th album, Looking Forward, Looking Back, in 2000 and became the first artist in worldwide commercial recording history to do so; second was Cliff Richard. All 100 albums had been recorded with the same record label, EMI, making Dusty the first music artist in the world to record 100 albums with the same label.[12] He was then given the honour of singing "Waltzing Matilda" in the closing ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics, with the whole stadium (officially 114,714 in attendance, the largest in Olympic history) singing along with him.[13][14]

Slim's repertoire included country gospel music, with which he liked to finish his shows.[15] His live albums usually carried the theme, and in 1971 he released the Gospel album Glory Bound Train featuring the eponymous hit Glory Bound Train and other songs of a Christian theme. Glory Bound Train was in turn the song selected to conclude the tribute concert held at Tamworth after his death. The "Concert for Slim" was recorded live on January 20, 2004, at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre, and an all-star cast of Australian musicians sang out the show with Slim's Glory Bound Train. The DVD was certified 3× Platinum in Australia.[16]


He died at his home in St Ives, New South Wales, on 19 September 2003 at the age of 76 after a protracted battle with lung and kidney cancer.[17]

Eulogistic thousands gathered at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, on 26 September 2003 at a state funeral attended by the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, and the federal opposition leader, Simon Crean. In the funeral, the Anglican Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen paid tribute by leading the congregation of family, statesmen, fans and musicians in the singing of "A Pub With No Beer". Several tributes were featured from Dusty's children as well as words from other national musicians (Peter Garrett and John Williamson) and music from Graeme Connors, Kasey Chambers and Troy Cassar-Daley. Around Australia, thousands of fans had gathered to stand outside the cathedral; Dusty was later cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney.[18][19]

Dusty had been working on his 106th album for EMI at the time of his death. On 8 March 2004 the album, Columbia Lane – the Last Sessions, debuted at number five in the Australian album charts and number one on the country charts. Gold status was achieved after being on sale for less than two weeks.

Columbia Lane is a tribute to the laneway juxtaposed to Parramatta Road in Strathfield (near the railway bridge link), where the EMI studios once stood (now Kennards Hire), and where he began his music career.

In 2004, Tamworth hosted the "Concert for Slim" as a memorial tribute featuring more than 30 Australian musical artists including Joy McKean, Paul Kelly, Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan and Kasey Chambers.[20]

In 2005, a statue of the "Cunnamulla Fella" was unveiled in Cunnamulla, Queensland, in tribute to Dusty and Stan Coster and to the iconic song of that name performed by Dusty with lyrics by Coster.[21] The song recalls Coster's days working as a sheep-shearing "ringer" around Cunnamulla in the 1950s. Dusty recorded the song and it became an enduring country music hit, later covered by Lee Kernaghan. The statue was unveiled by country music personalities Anne Kirkpatrick (Dusty's daughter), Jayne Kelly, and Tracy and Russell Coster.[22][23]

EMI Records' Australian sales of Dusty's records surpassed seven million in 2007.[24]

Honours and milestones[edit]

Slim Dusty was Australia's most successful and prolific musical artist, with more Gold and Platinum albums than any other Australian artist.[25] He was also:[12]

ARIA Music Awards (ARIA)[edit]

The Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards (commonly known informally as ARIA Music Awards or ARIA Awards) is an annual series of awards nights celebrating the Australian music industry, put on by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Slim Dusty has won one award from 10 nominations. Additionally, Dusty has been awarded two achievement awards and inducted into the Hall of Fame.[30]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1987 Stories I Wanted to Tell Best Country Album Nominated
1988 himself ARIA Hall of Fame inductee
1989 G'day, G'day! Best Country Album Nominated
1990 Two Singers, One Song (with Anne Kirkpatrick) Best Country Album Nominated
1991 Coming Home Best Country Album Nominated
1993 "Lights on the Hill" (with Keith Urban) Best Country Album Nominated
1994 Ringer from the Top End Best Country Album Nominated
1995 Natural High Best Country Album Nominated
1996 himself Special Achievement inductee
2000 himself Outstanding Achievement inductee
2001 Looking Forward Looking Back Best Country Album Won
2001 Looking Forward Looking Back Highest Selling Album Nominated
2004 Columbia Lane - the Last Sessions Best Country Album Nominated

Country Music Awards (CMAA)[edit]

The Country Music Awards (CMAA) are an annual awards ceremondy celebrating recording excellence in the Australian country music industry. It first commenced in 1973 at the Tamworth Country Music Awards of Australia.

According the Country Music Association of Australia, Slim Dusty has won 44 Golden guitar plus, an induction into Australian Roll of Renown. (listed below). This is more than any other artist.[31][32] [33][34][35]

According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2022, Troy Cassar-Daley won his 40th, surpassing Slim Dusty's record of 38 awards.[36]

Year Nominee / work Award Result (wins only)
1973 Me & My Guitar Album of the Year Won
"Lights on the Hill" Song of the Year Won
"Lights on the Hill" Best EP or Single Won
1974 Live At Tamworth Album of the Year Won
1975 Australiana Album of the Year Won
"Biggest Disappointment" Song of the Year Won
"Biggest Disappointment" Male Vocalist of the Year Won
1976 Lights on the Hill Album of the Year Won
"Worst in the World" Top selling song of the Year Won
1977 Angel of Goulburn Hill Album of the Year Won
"Three Rivers Hotel" Song of the Year Won
"Things I See Around Me" Top selling song of the Year Won
"Angel Of Goulburn Hill" Male Vocalist of the Year Won
1978 "Indian Pacific" Song of the Year Won
"Indian Pacific" Top selling song of the Year Won
1979 "Beat of the Government Stroke" Song of the Year Won
"Marty" Male Vocalist of the Year Won
himself Australian Roll of Renown inductee
1980 Walk a Country Mile Album of the Year Won
Walk a Country Mile Top Selling Won
1981 The Man Who Steadies the Lead Album of the Year Won
The Man Who Steadies the Lead Top Selling Won
1982 "Where Country Is" Heritage Award Won
1983 "Banjo's Man" Heritage Award Won
1984 On the Wallaby Album of the Year Won
Australia's On the Wallaby Heritage Award Won
1985 Trucks On The Track Album of the Year Won
Trucks On The Track Top Selling Won
1987 "He's a Good Bloke When He's Sober" Song of the Year Won
1988 Neon City Album of the Year Won
1989 "We've Done Us Proud" Song of the Year Won
"We've Done Us Proud" Heritage Award Won
1991 "Two Singers, One Song" (with Anne Kirkpatrick) Top Selling Won
Coming Home Album of the Year Won
1992 "Things Are Not the Same On the Land" Song of the Year Won
1994 "Leave Him In the Longyard" (with Lee Kernaghan) Vocal Group or Duo of the Year Won
1997 "Old Time Country Halls" Heritage Song of the Year Won
"Must've Been a Hell of a Party" Bush Ballad of the Year Won
1998 "Lady Is a Truckie" Bush Ballad of the Year Won
2001 Looking Forward Looking Back Top Selling Album of the Year Won
"Looking Forward Looking Back" Video Clip of the Year Won
"Paddy William" Bush Ballad of the Year Won
2002 "West of Winton" Bush Ballad of the Year Won
2003 "Just an Old Cattle Dog" Bush Ballad of the Year Won
2005 "Get Along" Video Clip of the Year Won

King of Pop Awards[edit]

The King of Pop Awards were voted by the readers of TV Week. The King of Pop award started in 1967 and ran through to 1978.[37]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1977 himself Most Popular Australian Country Musician Won
1978 himself Most Popular Australian Country Musician Won
  • Note: the Most Popular Australian Country Musician award was only presented in 1977 and 1978.

Mo Awards[edit]

The Australian Entertainment Mo Awards (commonly known informally as the Mo Awards), were annual Australian entertainment industry awards. They recognise achievements in live entertainment in Australia from 1975 to 2016. Slim Dusty won two awards in that time. From 2006, the "best country entertainer" award was named in his honour.[38]

Year Nominee / work Award Result (wins only)
1985 Slim Dusty Male Country Entertainer of the Year Won
2015 Slim Dusty Special Lifetime Achievement Award Won

Tamworth Songwriters Awards[edit]

The Tamworth Songwriters Association (TSA) is an annual songwriting contest for original country songs, awarded in January at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. They commenced in 1986.[39] Slim Dusty won two awards in that time.[40]

Year Nominee / work Award Result (wins only)
1993 "Bucking Horse Called Time" by Slim Dusty and Keith Garvey Traditional Bush Ballad of the Year Won
1996 "Fifteen Hundred Head" by Slim Dusty and K&M Dixon Traditional Bush Ballad of the Year Won



EMI Records' Australian sales of Slim Dusty records surpassed 7 million in 2007.[24]


  1. ^ "Curator's notes A Pub With No Beer (1957) on ASO - Australia's audio and visual heritage online". Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Senior Australian of the Year", 1999 award by the Australian government. Retrieved 10 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Slim Dusty: The boy who lived his dream", The Age (Australia), 21 September 2003
  4. ^ "News". Slim Dusty. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  5. ^ "The Country Music Store – Slim Dusty Sings Joy McKean". Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  6. ^ "Slim Dusty – Chronicler of the Bush". 19 September 2003. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  7. ^ Dave Laing, "Slim Dusty: Country singer famous for A Pub With No Beer", The Guardian (UK), 20 September 2003
  8. ^ "North Coast: The Pub With No Beer". NRMA. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
  9. ^ It's an Honour – Member of the Order of the British Empire
  10. ^ "Slim Dusty Inks Huge EMI Deal" (PDF). Cash Box. 13 March 1976. p. 55. Retrieved 21 November 2021 – via World Radio History.
  11. ^ It's an Honour – Officer of the Order of Australia
  12. ^ a b "Music Australia – Slim Dusty". 3 April 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  13. ^ "2000 Sydney Closing Ceremony Music List". Olympic ceremonies. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  14. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Slim Dusty performing". YouTube. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  15. ^ Per narration by Slim Dusty, Slim Dusty Live at Wagga Wagga; Track 12, 1972
  16. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2005 DVDs" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  17. ^ "Slim Dusty dies", Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September 2003
  18. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, "Crematorium opens doors to everlasting celebrations of life", 16 June 2012; Retrieved 7 August 2013
  19. ^ "Nothing morbid, nothing drear, just Slim". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 2003.
  20. ^ "Concert for Slim (Slim Dusty): DVDs". Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  21. ^ "Cunnamulla Fella – Things To See and Do". Queensland Holidays. 18 November 2005. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  22. ^ Shrimpton, James (13 November 2008). "Bronzed Aussie president over Cunnamulla". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. ^ "Cunnamulla Fella". Tourism Queensland. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
  24. ^ a b "Milestones". Slim Dusty. Archived from the original on 20 September 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  25. ^ "Australian country music –". 31 October 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  26. ^ STS-1 audio (Orbit 16). April 14, 1981. Recorded at Orroral Valley Tracking Station. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  27. ^ Country singer Slim Dusty, whose recording of the song.... 14 April 1981. From UPI archives. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  28. ^ "Royal Australian Mint celebrates the life of Slim Dusty with a 1 Dollar coin". News Allnumis. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  29. ^ 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #40: Slim Dusty. Troy Cassar-Daley, Rolling Stone Australia, 4 February 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  30. ^ "ARIA Awards Best Country Album". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  31. ^ "CMAA Award Winners". October 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  32. ^ "Award Winners 1970s". CMAA. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  33. ^ "Award Winners 1980s". CMAA. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  34. ^ "Award Winners 1990s". CMAA. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  35. ^ "Award Winners 2000s". CMAA. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  36. ^ Maguire, Kemii (20 April 2022). "2022 Golden Guitar Awards see Cassar-Daley take out Slim Dusty record, Shane Nicholson and Ashleigh Dallas collect top gongs". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  37. ^ "Australian Music Awards". Ron Jeff. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  38. ^ "MO Award Winners". Mo Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  39. ^ "Tamworth Songwriters Association". Tamworth Songwriters Association Online. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  40. ^ "Tamworth Songwriters Association Past Winners". Tamworth Songwriters Association Online. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  41. ^ "The 100 Best Australian Albums | music news | triple j". 28 October 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  42. ^ "The Slim Dusty Centre Project. Kempsey, New South Wales, Australia. Slim Dusty Paver Program. Slim Dusty Tyrrells Wines. Slim Dusty Music Memories Week". 30 October 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2012.

External links[edit]