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Growing up listening to my father playing Slim Dusty I never fully appreciated his music until later in life. Slim grew up in a little town not half an hour from where I was born, and his childhood upbringing on a dairy farm in the war years is very similar to my father’s own story.
And dad always loved Slim’s songs about those old farming days, like The Old Rusty Bell and When the Harvest Days are Over Jessie Dear and Nulla Nulla Creek.
So we visited the Slim Dusty Centre (just south of his hometown of Kempsey) on Wednesday and it was great. You find yourself getting into the spirit of his success story as the centre is really able to express the simplicity of a farming childhood; his determination to be a music artist; and finally his contribution to the wider community. I think even non-country music fans couldn’t help but smile as the automatic doors swing open wide to the chorus of Gday Gday!
His wife Joy McKean and family have generously donated nearly all his surviving memoriabilia including costumes, posters, scrap books, gold records and golden guitars, and even the original 1972 Ford Fairlane “Old Purple” and touring caravan. All proudly on display.
The centre has a theatrette as well as other quiet places to watch documentary films and old footage. Headphone sets are also available to listen to songs and audio remnants. We didn’t eat in the cafe but enjoyed the Australian native gardens (in mid-spring bloom) and the natural timber furnishings and hand-carfted art pieces.
My father is still recovering from heart surgery so it was just mum and I who went. But he’s dead keen to go when his body is stronger. There was a lot about Slim Dusty I didn’t know and how much he contributed to the Australian music industry generally as well as remote Aboriginal communities. I’m really pleased I went and I’d recommend the Slim Dusty Centre to anyone who has ever listened to a Slim Dusty song and smiled.
© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine
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