Slim Dusty



Slim Dusty
At the Golden Guitar awards in Tamworth At the Golden Guitar awards in Tamworth
Background information
Birth nameDavid Gordon Kirkpatrick
Born13 June 1927
Nulla Nulla Creek, New South Wales, Australia
Died19 September 2003 (aged 76)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation(s)Singer songwriter guitarist music producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1945–2003
LabelsRegal ZonophoneEMI
Associated actsJoy McKean
Anne Kirkpatrick
Smoky Dawson
Buddy Williams
The Wiggles
South Kempsey Boys
Shorty Ranger

Slim DustyAO 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.

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 45 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

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. 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.

Rise to fame and enduring popularity

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.

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“.

Although himself an accomplished writer of songs, Dusty had a number of other songwriters, including Mack Cormack, Gordon ParsonsStan 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. (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. 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.

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 contributing to country music. The following January, he was appointed 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 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.

Slim’s repertoire included country gospel music, with which he liked to finish his shows. 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 20th 2004, at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre, and an all star cast of Australian musicians sung out the show with Slim’s Glory Bound Train.


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.

Emotional thousands gathered at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, on 26 September 2003 at a state funeral attended by the Prime Minister of AustraliaJohn 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 ConnorsKasey 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.

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 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 Joy McKeanPaul KellyKeith UrbanLee Kernaghan and Kasey Chambers.

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. 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.

Honours and milestones

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

ARIA Music Awards (ARIA)

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.

YearNominee / workAwardResultLost to
1987Stories I Wanted to TellBest Country AlbumNominatedJohn Williamson – Mallee Boy
1988himselfARIA Hall of FameinducteeN/A
1989G’day, G’day!Best Country AlbumNominatedJohn Williamson – The Boomerang Cafe
1990Two Singers, One Song (with Anne Kirkpatrick)Best Country AlbumNominatedJohn Williamson – Warragul
1991Coming HomeBest Country AlbumNominatedJames Blundell – Hand It Down
1993“Lights on the Hill” (with Keith Urban)Best Country AlbumNominatedLee Kernaghan – The Outback Club
1994Ringer from the Top EndBest Country AlbumNominatedLee Kernaghan – Three Chain Road
1995Natural HighBest Country AlbumNominatedTroy Cassar-Daley – Beyond The Dancing
1996himselfSpecial AchievementinducteeN/A
2000himselfOutstanding AchievementinducteeN/A
2001Looking Forward Looking BackBest Country AlbumWonN/A
2001Looking Forward Looking BackHighest Selling AlbumNominatedPowderfinger – Odyssey Number Five
2004Columbia Lane – the Last SessionsBest Country AlbumNominatedKasey Chambers – Wayward Angel

Country Music Awards (CMAA)

The Country Music Awards (CMAA) are an annual awards ceremondy celebrating recording excellence in the Australian country music industry. It first commenced in 1973. Slim Dusty has won 45 Golden guitar (including one induction) at the Tamworth Country Music Awards of Australia. This is more than any other artist.==

YearNominee / workAwardResult (wins only)
1973Me & My GuitarAlbum of the YearWon
“Lights on the Hill”Song of the YearWon
“Lights on the Hill”Best EP or SingleWon
1974Live At TamworthAlbum of the YearWon
1975AustralianaAlbum of the YearWon
“Biggest Disappointment”Song of the YearWon
“Biggest Disappointment”Male Vocalist of the YearWon
1976Lights on the HillAlbum of the YearWon
“Worst in the World”Top selling song of the YearWon
1977Angel of Goulburn HillAlbum of the YearWon
“Three Rivers Hotel”Song of the YearWon
“Things I See Around Me”Top selling song of the YearWon
“Angel Of Goulburn Hill”Male Vocalist of the YearWon
1978“Indian Pacific”Song of the YearWon
“Indian Pacific”Top selling song of the YearWon
1979“Beat of the Government Stroke”Song of the YearWon
“Marty”Male Vocalist of the YearWon
himselfAustralian Roll of Renowninductee
1980Walk a Country MileAlbum of the YearWon
Walk a Country MileTop SellingWon
1981The Man Who Steadies the LeadAlbum of the YearWon
The Man Who Steadies the LeadTop SellingWon
1982“Where Country Is”Heritage AwardWon
1983“Banjo’s Man”Heritage AwardWon
1984On the WallabyAlbum of the YearWon
Australia’s On the WallabyHeritage AwardWon
1985Trucks On The TrackAlbum of the YearWon
Trucks On The TrackTop SellingWon
1987“He’s a Good Bloke When He’s Sober”Song of the YearWon
1988Neon CityAlbum of the YearWon
1989“We’ve Done Us Proud”Song of the YearWon
“We’ve Done Us Proud”Heritage AwardWon
1991“Two Singers, One Song” (with Anne Kirkpatrick)Top SellingWon
Coming HomeAlbum of the YearWon
1992“Things Are Not the Same On the Land”Song of the YearWon
1994“Leave Him In the Longyard” (with Lee Kernaghan)Vocal Group or Duo of the YearWon
1997“Old Time Country Halls”Heritage Song of the YearWon
“Must’ve Been a Hell of a Party”Bush Ballad of the YearWon
1998“Lady Is a Truckie”Bush Ballad of the YearWon
2001Looking Forward Looking BackTop Selling Album of the YearWon
“Looking Forward Looking Back”Video Clip of the YearWon
“Paddy William”Bush Ballad of the YearWon
2002“West of Winton”Bush Ballad of the YearWon
2003“Just an Old Cattle Dog”Bush Ballad of the YearWon
2005“Get Along”Video Clip of the YearWon

King of Pop Awards

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.

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1977himselfMost Popular Australian Country MusicianWon
1978himselfMost Popular Australian Country MusicianWon
  • Note: the Most Popular Australian Country Musician award was only presented in 1977 and 1978.


  • EMI Records‘ Australian sales of Slim Dusty records surpassed 7 million in 2007.[22]
  • Dusty was a guest on the Wiggles‘ children DVD Wiggly Wiggly World.
  • His daughter Anne Kirkpatrick is also an award-winning country singer.
  • Dusty’s life was the subject of a 1984 feature film: The Slim Dusty Movie
  • The Slim Dusty Centre was built in Kempsey, NSW, Dusty’s home town, and opened in October 2015.
  • 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 previous 50 years.
  • Dusty had a Floribunda Rose named in his honour, which is a Golden Orange Coppery toned bloom, reminiscent of the Australian Outback, that he often wrote and sang about.
  • “Pub With No Beer” was added to the National Film and Sound Archive‘s Sounds of Australia registry in 2008.
  • “Flying with the King” by Lee Kernaghan is a song honouring Slim Dusty

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