The illustration of a cheery chap with the Akubra hat and acoustic guitar staring out from Google’s homepage today (Oct. 24) is none other than Slim Dusty, the late Australian country music icon.
The prolific artist who recorded more than 100 albums, and whose trophy cabinet is equally impressive, is immortalized with a Google Doodle, which “celebrates the lives of famous artists, pioneers” and more.
Dusty fits the bill. He’s a national treasure in his homeland, selling an estimated seven million records during his lifetime, and earning induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame at the very first ceremony, in 1988.
Born David Kirkpatrick in Kempsey, New South Wales, and raised on his family farm in nearby Nulla Nulla Creek, Slim pursued his love of music from a young age. At 10, he wrote his very first song, “The Way the Cowboy Dies”, then, the following year, settled on a new stage name, “Slim Dusty,” having briefly considered “Buddy Bluebird.”
By the age of 15, Dusty had made his first self-funded recording. He would later sign with Columbia Graphophone Records, where he remained for the rest of his career.
Dusty’s 1957 recording “A Pub with No Beer”, written by his friend, Gordon Parsons, was a top 10 hit in the U.K., peaking at No. 3 in 1959. At the time, it was considered the best-selling song recorded by an Australian, and Slim was awarded the first gold record presented in Australia.
The awards kept coming, and Slim kept touring. He clocked up more miles than some airlines, touring his own Slim Dusty Show in which he and his wife Joy McKean were supported by guest artists including Chad Morgan, Johnny Ashcroft and Gordon Parsons.
“I adored my dad. I was lucky and thankful to spend weeks and months with him touring all around Australia with the Slim Dusty Show as I was growing up,” writes Slim’s daughter, Anne Kirkpatrick, for the Google Doodle project.
“As I followed my own path in the music game, I’d still drop in on the family show like a bird flying home to the nest. The magic of his raw talent as a singer and performer had to be seen and heard to be believed and I still believe he has one of the most recognizable voices in Australia.”
Along the way, he won 38 Golden Guitars (the Country Music Awards of Australia’s annual awards night), and was awarded the outstanding achievement award at the ARIA Awards in 2000, the same year he performed “Waltzing Matilda” at the closing ceremony of Sydney Olympics.
Earlier, in 1998, he was appointed an Officer of the Order in Australia for “services to entertainment.” In 2001 he was featured on an Australia Post “Legend” stamp, and the Australian Mint has pressed a coin with his image.
Dusty’s life and his annual Australia-wide tours were the backbone of the 1984 biopic The Slim Dusty Movie. His career was brought into focus once more for the 2020 documentary Slim & I. Today, fans can visit the Slim Dusty Centre in his hometown.
Dusty died Sept. 19, 2003 at the age of 76. “He traversed generations,’ said Midnight Oil front man Peter Garrett at the time. “He crossed over musical genres with his distinctive and authentically Australian voice. In pioneering terms, first he made country a musical form that was viable in Australia – it was Australian country music; and, second, he laid some of the foundations of building and sustaining a career for all who followed, by heading out and playing to people all over the country.”