Slim Dusty AO MBE 1927-2003

Slim Dusty

Slim Dusty

David Gordon Kirkpatrick was born at Kempsey, New South Wales, on 13 June 1927.

While he worked on the family property, Dusty sang wherever and whenever he could.

 

Country Music Master

When Slim Dusty died in September 2003, Gayle Kennedy, a freelance writer and a member
of the Wongaibon people of south-west NSW, paid this tribute: ‘When Slim died I cried. I didn’t for Elvis, or Lennon, not even a drop shed for Johnny Cash. But Slim, I cried as though my heart would break, because he really did touch my life. Even though I’d only met him and his family in the autograph-signing sessions of his Travelling Country Show, to me and the rest of my mob he was family. I don’t think there’s a blackfulla alive today who hasn’t listened to Slim (whether you liked his music or not). My earliest memories are of Dad coming home with the latest single and playing it over and over again on the old battery-operated gramophone. We played his music at claypan dances and family parties held deep in the scrub, the red dust swirling around us as everyone danced. We played him at weddings and celebrations for new babies born. We also played him at funerals, because there never was a relative of mine who died whose favourite song wasn’t one of Slim’s. Slim brought his music out to us blackfullas no matter where we were. More importantly, he brought his family, every one of them talented. Joy was an inspiration to me. I’d had polio as a kid and Mum would always say to me, “You’ll be all right. Joy McKean had it too and look where she is.” They entertained us from the remotest areas to the biggest cities. His music was and is the soundtrack to many of our lives and we claim him as one of our own. Slim was red dust, claypans, saltbush, river banks, corrugated iron halls and dusty football fields. He was Mum and Dad and family. He was, is and always will mean home to me.’

David Gordon Kirkpatrick was born at Kempsey, New South Wales, on 13 June 1927. He grew up on a dairy farm at nearby Nulla Nulla Creek and was only 10 when he wrote his first song, ‘The Way the Cowboy Dies’. He adopted the name ‘Slim Dusty’ (having briefly considered ‘Buddy Bluebird’) and in 1942 he made his first broadcast – on the The Gumnut Show, a children’s program on 2KM Kempsey.

While he worked on the family property, Dusty sang wherever and whenever he could: in cinemas in the interval between movies, at rodeos, at community concerts and, occasionally, in the street, busking.While he worked on the family property, Dusty sang wherever and whenever he could The following year he was contracted to record for the Regal Zonophone label.

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Biographical references

Slim Dusty and John Lapsley: Walk a Country Mile, Rigby, 1981
Gayle Kennedy: ‘Thanks, Slim, from me and my mob’, in The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 September 2003
Eric Watson: Country Music in Australia, Rodeo Publications, 1975