Joy with Anne Kirkpatrick and David Kirkpatrick
In more than fifty years of marriage, Slim and I wrote, recorded and constantly toured our travelling shows right around Australia. We had a wonderful life together. Winning the first ever Golden Guitar back in 1972 for 'Lights on the Hill' was both a highlight in my career and an early confidence boost for what became a life full of music and memories. When not involved in my role as Chair of the Slim Dusty Foundation I continue to write, sometimes songs and yes, the occasional book about my life on the road with Slim. I hope this little 'diary' and its stories and events will bring you interest and enjoyment.
— Joy McKean OAM
The Slim Dusty Memories Week at Kempsey was a tremendous success once again. Organised coach trips up to Nulla Nulla Creek to visit Slim's original home are a very popular outing for festival visitors.The house and its surrounds are now listed on the State Heritage Register. The Bellbrook P&C and Hall Auxiliary members host billy tea and damper morning tea at the house, while visitors walk around the old dairy and house paddock. The coaches then take them to the village of Bellbrook, an historic village where lunch is served in the village hall and visitors are encouraged to walk around the village itself to read some of informative notices on the history of the area.
The showground camping area is always filled with caravans and motor homes, and there is music and entertainment on and around the stage for the whole week. On the main concert on Saturday night, Anne and David joined the Travelling Country Band on stage to perform for the crowd. During the programme too, the Slim Dusty Community Awards were presented. Peter Nosow from Western Australia was the adult winner for his community and charity work. Peter runs a big nursery, Lansdale Roses, and has in recent years, presented to the public special roses to raise money for charities such as the Starlight Foundation, RSPCA and of course, the Slim Dusty Foundation.
My Slim Dusty Roses are blooming in Sydney, and especially beautifully up at Nulla Creek in front of my house there.
We've had a very dry time at the farm, but just before I had to return to Sydney last week, we had two days of good rain. That has just held off the hand feeding for now because we should be able to depend on fairly regular showers of rain for the rest of the year if only the weather follows its usual pattern. I hope that in a week or two, the paddocks will be green and the cattle fat and happy. I often look down the hill to the gravel road and see a coach or a tourist's car heading up to Slim's old home. We generally know if it was a tourist's car as it returns about half an hour or so later on.
I've planted an apple tree, that is a cutting from the old 100 year old Five Crown apple tree down at Homewood at Metung, in the Gippsland of Victoria. The old tree is propped up now as storms and weather have finally knocked it around a lot, but it will live on up in Nulla Creek. I also have a young fig tree growing from a cutting of my great-grandmother's fig tree at Tooraweenah, near the Warrambungle Mountains in Central NSW. I'm working out now where I could plant some cuttings from the old grape vines that come from those planted by my great-grandfather in the Hunter Valley back in the 1860's. I'm always interested in growing the old plants and trees to remind me of special people and places.
Sorry to be out of touch for a while, my friends, but life has been busy. I am writing again, a different book this time. But I stopped writing to fulfil a promise made to my friends in Spring Valley, Murringo near Young in NSW. On October 20th, on a lovely spring day, I did the honours in officially opening for business the Taubman & Webb Trading Post in Murringo. There's quite a story to this little museum cum leather shop. Two years ago, Leah Taubman bought the 150 year old general store building in the village with the aim of restoring it and opening it as a tribute to her husband Richard Taubman and his mentor, bushman and master saddler and plaiter, Syd Bayliss.
From the age of 13, Richard was so fascinated by Syd's plaiting and leather mastery that he persuaded the old saddler to teach him everything he knew. This took place over many years with the result that Richard, who runs the family property at Spring Valley, also travels each year to the Gulf Country to sell his handmade stock whips and leather gear and to keep alive the story of bushmen like old Syd Bayliss and his mates. Such is Richard's respect for Syd that he has even written a book on Syd's long life and career.
Richard made and donated to the Slim Dusty Foundation two stock whips made with Slim's name and life dates plaited into the handle. One is now owned by Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman fame when he bought it at a fundraising auction; the other is kept at the Slim Dusty Centre ready to be displayed there. Richard also made a video showing every step in the making and plaiting of the two whips, beginning with the tanning of the skins. At the opening day of the Trading Post, there was music, afternoon tea and Richard's demonstration of cracking his 65 foot bull whip out on the road in front of the store I am the proud owner of a specially made walking stick; here's a photo of it to show how Richard has plaited my name into it so if I mislay it somewhere, there is no excuse for the finder not to return it to me!
The big push for having June 13th, Slim's birthday, recognised as National Slim Dusty Day is beginning. I hope that everyone will spread the word about this and sign the online petition to the Government. It would be a wonderful way to install a permanent memorial to Slim and his values. Most Australians don't talk too much about these values of commitment, mateship, community, and giving a helping hand and such. But most of us do try in our own quiet way to live up to them without trumpeting our deeds to the world. A National Slim Dusty Day would be a memorial to these values embodied in a man who stood for them and did try to live by them. Certainly, he did his best.
Join the petition here: http://slimdustycentre.com.au/signupforslim.htm
I know that people are still cleaning up after the floods as we are on Homewood Farm. Lots of fencing and gates to repair and replace, but there are many, many folk much worse off and my thoughts have been constantly with them.
A bright thing to look forward to is the forthcoming Slim Dusty Day on June 13th. We plan a big celebration and birthday party on the day but there are a lot of surprises coming up beforehand. Keep in touch and keep up with the news so you don't miss out on anything.
Thanks, everyone, for all the enquiries about how the Kempsey floods have affected Homewood Farm up in Nulla Creek. I am happy to tell you that we have not lost any stock, but the fences, gates, and creek blocks have suffered badly. Also, some of the creek flats have been flooded over and banks eroded with fences left hanging in the air over the ground. Folk up the Nulla were isolated on at least two occasions, and the Nulla even cut the main road near Bellbrook village. It was the highest flood recorded for the Nulla Creek. The CEO of the Slim Dusty Centre in Kempsey, Kathryn Yarnold, was totally isolated on her home farm with a sea of brown flood water as far as she could see. Her assistant, Linda, was also cut off from Kempsey in her home at Crescent Head, so work at the Centre had to come to a stop for a while. Fortunately, the Slim Dusty Centre is out of flood reach.
Well, Tamworth Country Music Festival has come and gone with lots happening everywhere in town. The big event for us was the Slim Dusty Family Concert on Wednesday 23rd January in the TREC (Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre). The concert was a fundraiser for the Slim Dusty Centre in Kempsey and featured Anne and David plus Anne's son James Arneman and David's daughter Hannah Kirkpatrick. It was a great chance to get together with the Travelling Country Band once more. Colin Watson, one of the original members, was musical director for the concert. Colin wrote the arrangements for songs such as "Indian Pacific" and "The Biggest Disappointment" when Slim recorded them. Rod Coe, Slim's musical director and record producer for over twenty-five years, was on electric and big double-bass. Pete Denahy toured with us as a TCB member plus as a solo act…his hit at the time was "The Petrolhead Fly". This time around Pete compered and took part in performing. Mike Kerin (the Fettler) was there, plus Jeff Mercer, Doug Gallacher, Michel Rose plus a "new" member of the TCB…multi-instrumentalist Clare O'Meara on Keyboards, fiddle and piano accordion.
Anne spent weeks planning the programme and included a special bush balladeers segment in the first half. This featured Peter Coad and the Coad Sisters, Virginia and Lynette), Dean Perrett, Jeff Brown, Tracy Coster and Peter Denahy. Then in the second half, in came Troy Cassar-Daley and Adam Harvey with a crowd pleasing version of "Lights on the Hill". Both Troy and Adam have been fantastic supporters of the Centre since the word "go" as have all the balladeers everywhere.
Kathryn Yarnold, CEO of the Slim Dusty Centre in Kempsey, was there with the volunteers who run the Centre stall in the main street during the Festival. They were all busy enrolling new members in the Mates of Slim Dusty Muster and handing out souvenir flags featuring Slim, "King of Country Music".
I send my thanks and appreciation to everyone who made the concert so much fun and such a successful event. Our special guests made the day a special time for us as a family, and for the big audience who gave such enthusiastic applause for the whole show.
In one store, I met up with Nygarie Allen who appeared on the McKean Sisters Melody Trail radio show in Sydney and also appeared on the programme of a live concert we held in Mittagong back in 1953. Talk about a "blast from the past!". That was not all, either. Up in Toowoomba, a lady gave me two or three letters she had received from me and Heather about the same time…plus an autographed photo we had sent her. It is one of the things I love about being on the road again…meeting up with people who have been in and out of contact over the years. Thank you to all those who brought me souvenirs from their families or reminders of old friends.
I've recently completed a week's book signings for the new edition of "I've Been There…and Back Again", the coffee table book published through Hachette last year. The new edition is in a soft back cover in a size that's much easier to carry or transport so we call it the "Travellin' Still" edition. It contains three extra song lyrics and stories plus more photos from John Elliott, and from my own collection.
My granddaughter Kate Arneman travelled with me to share the driving, and get me organised into the stores and back out on the road each day. She will send some photos for you to see.
I see that the old Hercules planes are being phased out of the Australian Air Force after about 35 years of service. It was one of the Hercules planes that carried Slim and me with the Travelling Country Band over to the Solomon Islands. We were on a morale raising trip to play a big open air concert as the Islanders tried to rebuild their villages and homes after Cyclone Namu. Some villages were left as heaps of rubble and timber, but the people were still smiling and gave us a fantastic welcome.
When we began our flight back to Australia, members of the flight crew opened the back of the plane as we passed over the main island to give us a bird's eye view of the land below. There were ruined houses everywhere, but there were beautiful beaches and palm groves while the rebuilding had already begun.
Slim Dusty Memories Week at Kempsey was bigger than ever this October. More caravans and camper vans than ever, and lots of great entertainment. All the West Kempsey Rotary volunteers were run off their feet getting chairs and facilities organised and were really amazed and appreciative at the way the campers hopped in and helped with all the jobs throughout the week! That's what I call real co-operation!
I missed out on the final night concert this year as I attended the Truckies' Memorial Service instead. I am unable to be in two places at once, unfortunately, much as I would have liked to be. However, I believe that Anne and David did me proud as did all the fine artists on the programme. I heard, too, that there was a big roll-up during the week for the annual bus trip out to the Nulla to have morning smoko at Slim's old home on Homewood Farm.
Slim and I were Patrons of the Truckies' Memorial at Tarcutta, NSW, and I am honoured to still be Patron of the Memorial. I drove down to attend the Memorial Service this year on Saturday, October 27th. Tarcutta is on the Hume Highway not far from Wagga, and the Memorial Wall and gardens are in the centre of the village. On the day of the service, the village is filled with trucks and vehicles of all kinds as families join in the service of remembrance. The Wall is built to remember all the men and women who have lost their lives as they drove their trucks all over Australia. It is a day when families can come together to exchange stories of loved ones, to remember them and to place flowers on the wall by the name of their lost truckie. I was especially touched to see an elderly couple place not one, but two, tributes of red roses beside two names on the wall…their two sons.
Some years ago, I wrote a song for the Memorial. Slim recorded "Names Upon the Wall", and I truly believe the words I wrote: "While ever we remember them, they'll never really die".
Welcome to the new Slim Dusty website.
Looking forward, looking back…it’s a song that speaks to so many aspects of life, including the way we communicate. When Slim and I first started our life in music we were writing letters with a pen and putting them in the post with several days until delivery. These days it’s email, SMS, Facebook and websites. So I’m very excited about launching this new website, celebrating the life of Slim, and keeping his legacy alive. I hope you enjoy what we, EMI and the Slim Dusty Team, have put together so that you are able to explore more about Slim, his story and his music.