Songs of 74: The Biggest Disappointment / Slim Dusty

This year Radioinfo will take you back 50 years to songs released in 1974. It was a mighty fine year for music.

The last weekend of January was the 52nd Golden Guitar Awards held in country music’s Australian home of Tamworth. Back in 1973, the very first of those awards was given, for Song of the Year, to ‘Lights on the Hill’, sung by Slim Dusty and written by his wife Joy McKean.

In commemorating songs turning 50 it would be remiss of me not to include ‘The Biggest Disappointment’, also sung by Slim and written by Joy, as it was released as a single in 1974, but didn’t make the mainstream charts.

In his lifetime Slim would win 37 more Golden Guitars (and Joy 44), release 122 records, 61 studio albums and sell more than seven million copies, all through EMI Music. I can’t find this on any of his albums released around that time, although it does appear on most best ofs and is sung by Troy Cassar-Daley and Missy Higgins in Slim and I, the documentary film released in 2020 about the couple.

Joy McKean, who sang, wrote and acted as business manager for the Dusty brand as well as being an ambassador for country music, felt this was her finest work, a song about being, as a creative and struggling artist, the biggest disappointment of the family.

It was personal.

Whether you are a fan of country music or not, you will know of Slim, even though he died 20 years ago.

Slim and Joy married in 1951, they had two children, David and Anne (also both singer songwriters) and somewhere in the early 1960s, while the children were still very young, Slim decided that he would do touring trips of Australia.

Joy had a choice to make about whether she would stay behind with the children or join him. She chose the latter, and the 10 month, 30,000 kilometre annual round trips are also the subject of The Slim Dusty Movie, which came out in 1984.

These performing pilgrimages saw Dusty and McKean connect deeply with Aboriginal communities and their stories. Their songs are a representative of real Australia, not an imitation or American revival, and the beautiful wild violet Ford Fairlane and caravan they would travel in is now on display at The Slim Dusty Centre in Kempsey.

The number of records, the amount of kilometres, and the communities visited and sing with and for, are unlikely ever to be repeated by any artists again. Rather than a biggest disappointment, Slim Dusty and Joy McKean have become pioneers and legends of our music industry.

By Jen Seyderhelm – Radioinfo Writer, Editor and Music Trivia Buff.

PS: This album pictured doesn’t contain ‘The Biggest Disappointment’, but I do love the image of the pair and it was a magnificent Vinnie’s $2 score.

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