Slim’s chance at a new national holiday

Country music icons: Joy McKean and Anne Kirkpatrick, the wife and daughter of Slim Dusty, at the Kempsey Slim Dusty Centre on what would have Slim's 90th birthday. Photo: Lachlan Leeming.

Country music icons: Joy McKean and Anne Kirkpatrick, the wife and daughter of Slim Dusty, at the Kempsey Slim Dusty Centre on what would have Slim's 90th birthday. Photo: Lachlan Leeming.

“It’d be a day where you can go and have a barbie and celebrate being Australian.” 

So says Aussie country music icon Joy McKean, wife and manager of Slim Dusty for more than 50 years, when asked if her late husband’s birthday would be worthy of a new national holiday. 

“He celebrated the values of the ordinary Australian,” Joy explained while at Kempsey on July 13 to celebrate Slim Dusty Day, an annual event held at Slim’s centre.

Part of the appeal to a new national holiday revolves around Slim Dusty’s work closing the gap between white and Indigenous Australia, according to Joy.  

“He never got up on stages and pedestals and talked about it (reconciliation),” she said. 

“He just got on with it.”

So much so that Mandawuy Yunupingu, a member of indigenous rock band Yothu Yindi, said in a message at Slim’s funeral in 2003: "You were the first pioneer of reconciliation between black and white Australia”. 

It was something Slim conveyed in a fashion only he could – with the singer penning a tribute to the influence of Indigenous stockmen and women in his song ‘The Saddle Is His Home (Tall Dark Man In The Saddle)’. 

While Slim conveyed the challenges and successes of the average Australian musically better than anyone before him, he also looked abroad for inspiration – with Joy revealing that the great Aussie bush poet harboured a great fondness for the music of rock’n’roll legend Elvis Presley. 

“He really liked Elvis, he thought he had a great voice,” Joyce explained.

Asked whether they could imagine Slim practicing some of Elvis’ signature dance moves, both Joy and the couple’s daughter Anne Kirkpatrick laughed. 

“No, he was more of a stationary performer,” Anne smiled.

This year’s Slim Dusty Day would have been the bush musician’s 90th birthday. 

Slim's "birthday" cake.

Slim's "birthday" cake.

“It’s great to see everyone here remembering Slim and the values he represented,” said centre manager of the Slim Dusty Centre, Michelle Atkinson.   

Festivities at a busy Slim Dusty Centre included live entertainment, a giant birthday cake and the launch of a new exhibition entitled “Slim Dusty - The Private Collection”.

This exhibition runs until June 28 and features a unique collection of memorabilia from Slim and his mates.

The centre will also soon host the ACO Virtual Orchestra, where audiences and visitors will have the opportunity to step ‘inside’ the performance as they are immersed in a 360-degree cinema experience, surrounded by the musicians. 

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