Slim Dusty was the most prolific and biggest-selling recording artist in Australia, with more than five million of his recordings sold on the domestic market of 20 million people and a status akin to the all-time greats in country music. In 2000, the 73-year-old Australian music legend released his 100th album.
He was born David Gordon Kirpatrick in Kempsey, NSW, Australia, and spent most of his younger days at a dairy farm. The first major influence on his career in music was his father, who liked to vocalize to the accompaniment of his fiddle playing when Kirpatrick was still a toddler. The event that changed his life forever took place when he was ten and heard an aborigine sing a song called "The Drunkard's Child." He was so fascinated, that same year he wrote his first song, "The Way the Cowboy Died." At age 11, he decided to rename himself Slim Dusty. In 1942, as a "seasoned performer" of 15, Slim talked his way into the studios of the local radio station, and at his own expense recorded two songs: "Song for the Aussies" and "My Final Song." He became a regular performer and in 1945 wrote his first classic, "When the Rain Tumbles Down in July." In November 1946, the singer hit the big smoke and in a Sydney studio recorded the six tracks which would be released as his first three 78 rpm singles, starting with "When the Rain Tumbles Down in July." By now, he had a part-time career in show business as an intermittent radio performer playing in music halls and tent shows. In 1952, he married country performer and songwriter Joy McKean.
By April 1957, Slim Dusty already had a recording career of ten-plus years behind him when he was scheduled to record four more songs, but only three had been chosen. At the time, Slim was traveling with Gordon Parsons, who was singing a song he'd written based on a poem by Dan Shean. Needing that extra song, Slim asked Parsons if he could record his song, thinking it would make a good B-side for a song called "Saddle Boy." Parsons had no problem with that as to him, "A Pub With No Beer" was just a novelty song. Months later, while Slim was working in outback Queensland, he was told that the B-side of his latest single had made the pop charts in Brisbane, and as the months rolled on "A Pub With No Beer" became the first-ever Australian-made single to reach the national number one spot. The record went on to reach number three in England, and also sold well in the U.S. For a long time, it was the biggest selling single in Australian music history.
From then on, the Slim Dusty career was assured. Unmistakable in his workman's hat with the turned down brim, Slim was the kind of country music performer America lamented having lost. He was someone who, throughout his 100-album career, sang songs about the Australian landscape and the people who occupy it, someone who toured the length and breadth of the land. The cream of Australian songwriters lined up to offer him songs. Over the years, Slim won every accolade possible, from Tamworth Music Awards Golden Guitars to his Member of the British Empire medal.
Slim's long journey came to an end in Sydney on September 19, 2003, the victim of kidney cancer. His importance to the Australian music landscape was immense. Just one example of his homeland's pride came in September 2000, when he was one of the Australian performers featured in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. Slim was given the job of singing Australia's unofficial national anthem, "Waltzin' Matilda." No one else would have been as appropriate. ~ Ed Nimmervoll