David Gordon Kirkpatrick AO MBE (13 June 1927 – 19 September 2003), known professionally as Slim Dusty, was an Australiancountry music singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer, who was an Australian cultural icon and one of the country’s most awarded stars, with a career spanning nearly seven decades, the archetypical “Father of Country Music”. He was known to record songs in the legacy of Australian bush poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson that represented the Australian bush lifestyle 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.
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. Joy McKean wrote several of Dusty’s most popular songs, including: “Walk A Country Mile”, “Indian Pacific”, “Kelly’s Offsider”, “The Angel of Goulburn Hill” and “The Biggest Disappointment”. 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.
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. Over his career, he collected more gold and platinum albums than any other Australian artist. (The “Pub with No Beer” is a real place, in Taylors Arm, not far from Kempsey where Slim was born.) 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. In 1970, he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire for services to music. 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”). In all, he won a record 37 “Golden Guitars” over the years.
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 him and his wife to perform in 1997, recognising 50 years contributing to country music. The following January, he was awarded an officer of the Order of Australia for his service to the entertainment industry.
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 very first music artist in the world to record 100 albums with the same label.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.
Dusty 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.
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. 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”. The funeral featured tributes from Dusty’s children as well as words from other national musicians (Peter Garrett and John Williamson) and music fromGraeme Connors, Kasey Chambers and Troy Cassar-Daley. Thousands of fans travelled from around Australia to stand outside the cathedral. He was cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney.
At the time of his death, Dusty had been working on his 106th album for EMI. The album, Columbia Lane – the Last Sessions, debuted at number five in the Australian album charts and number one on the country charts on 8 March 2004. It went gold 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 it is where he traversed to begin his music career.
In 2004, Tamworth hosted the “Concert for Slim” as a memorial tribute featuring more than 30 Australian musical artists including Paul Kelly, Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan andKasey Chambers
In 2005, a statue of the “Cunumulla 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. 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.
EMI Records’ Australian sales of Dusty’s records surpassed seven million in 2007.
The Wiggles dedicated his death on their “Top of the Tots” video as well as Jane Hill’s death