The Eurythmics once proclaimed that “Behind every great man/ There has to be a great woman,” and in the case of Australian country music legend Slim Dusty, that great woman was his wife, songwriter and business manager, Joy McKean.
Director Kriv Stenders’ illuminating new documentary feature turns the spotlight on Slim’s hardworking other half, who was instrumental in revolutionising the popularity of country music in Australia and turning her husband into one of its prime exponents.
A budding pianist and songwriter, Joy and her sibling Heather formed a successful partnership as The McKean Sisters, breaking new ground as the first women to host their own radio program on Sydney’s 2KY in the 1940s. It was this very show that brought Joy into Slim’s orbit, and 12 months after meeting, they were married and soon touring the length and breadth of Australia for almost a year at a time. Hitting as many small towns as possible, the nomadic pair brought the poetic and relatable sounds of country music to the rural masses (sometimes simply performing on the back of a truck with a generator) and remote Aboriginal communities, where they came to be adored.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Slim & I documents their travels, trials and runaway success through an amazing compilation of rare archival footage and photographs that deftly capture a sense of time and place, as well as candid interviews with Joy, Heather, and local CM artists including Keith Urban, Kasey Chambers, Troy Cassar-Daley and Missy Higgins, who discuss the profound effect Slim and Joy’s music had on them, and the industry as a whole. “We would not have the career we have in Australia if not for Slim and Joy,” notes Chambers.
As well as illuminating the achievements of Slim and Joy, the film paints a wonderful portrait of Australia through the decades that will invoke wistful nostalgia in older audiences. And for the unconverted, it’s a gateway to a new appreciation for country music and its pioneers.
In cinemas: September 10, 2020 (excluding Victoria)
Starring: Slim Dusty, Joy McKean, Troy Cassar-Daley
Directed by: Kriv Stenders