This is the first verse of the original 1957 recording of ‘A Pub With No Beer’ sung by Slim Dusty. The song was composed by Gordon Parsons, with lyrics inspired by Dan Sheahan’s poem.
This recording, made on 1 April 1957, is said to have been completed in one take. It was made at EMI’s studio in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, with Slim playing his new Gibson Sunburst guitar (which Joy Kirkpatrick still has, as of 2010). Reg Robinson, with whom Slim would often record, played the bass guitar.
Slim Dusty was by this time a seasoned performer, both in the studio and on the road. His voice is beautifully strong and clear, and so distinctively Australian as to be unmistakeable. For both Tex Morton and Buddy Williams, the artistic roots of their music were North American and it took time for their Australian voices to mature. Slim Dusty had listened to both men and to the American country artists they listened to – principally Jimmy Rogers and the Canadian Wilf Carter – but his home-grown sound is much more obvious in this recording.
This first verse introduces the poem’s story and sets up the humour of the song. Being away from kin, surrounded by wild dingoes at night, is bad enough but it doesn’t even compare to the nonsensical idea of a pub without beer! Clearly, the humour is part of the song’s appeal and that was universal, whether people were listening in Belgium or London or Nashville. Nor did specifically Australian touches, like references to 'dingoes’, put off overseas listeners. The Australian sound might also have been part of the appeal, both at home in Australia and overseas. Rolf Harris was yet to make it big in Britain and there were few Australian records getting a release anywhere outside Australia.
‘A Pub With No Beer’ changed all that, as well as the culture of the recording and radio businesses in Australia. ‘Hick’ and ‘hillbilly’ music could not be ignored quite so easily after this. The song certainly changed life for Slim Dusty, setting up the extraordinary career that would continue until his death in 2003, aged 76.