Joy McKean's stories of the road now told in prose

Joy McKean.

Joy McKean.

Award-winning songwriter and musician Joy McKean wrote many of Slim Dusty's most famous songs. She will be promoting her autobiography during a visit to Kiama this weekend.

Award-winning songwriter and musician Joy McKean wrote many of Slim Dusty's most famous songs. She will be promoting her autobiography during a visit to Kiama this weekend.

WHEN penning her autobiography, Joy McKean had to remind herself she was telling her story, and not merely relating tales of late husband and country music great Slim Dusty.

"My publisher said to me, 'you can't talk about it as Slim, as it's [about] what it was like for you'," she said.

"We spent so much time together, so it's a key part of the story.

"But so many people have said, 'what was it like for a woman out there, travelling under those conditions in those times?'

"I was trying to write my story of what it was like from a woman's point of view."

Riding this Road details McKean's career as a performer and songwriter, her decades of touring around Australia, and her marriage of more than 50 years to Slim Dusty.

McKean wrote many of Dusty's most famous songs and won the first Golden Guitar awarded at the Tamworth Country Music Festival for Lights on the Hill, which also received an ARIA Award.

McKean, now 84, has previously written bestselling books Another Day, Another Town, the biography of Slim Dusty, and I've Been There (And Back Again).

"It's an awful lot of years to have to remember and write about," she said.

"I just jotted down some of the big events in my life, and remember things that stood out for me in my lifetime.

"I had to research and check a few dates, but luckily I've got a good memory.

"In the early days of touring I had diaries.

"I'd write after the shows, or the next day . . . those diaries were absolutely invaluable.

"They remind me of who we toured with, memorable shows we played, people we met, things that were happening."

She said touring in an era before television and often in remote areas which struggled to pick up radio meant people were much more isolated.

"Very often, our show would be the only entertainment that came into the town for months," she said.

McKean started her singing career as a teenager when she and her sister Heather compered their own radio program, The Melody Trail, breaking new ground as the first women to host an Australian radio show.

McKean didn't want to merely craft "soft songs" - she wanted her songs to reflect the often gruelling road life.

"Women didn't write songs for men to sing, but I did, even though we didn't broadcast that to begin with.

"It took a lot of truckies a long time to believe a woman wrote Lights on the Hill."

McKean will discuss her book at Kiama Library this Saturday from 2.30pm to 3.30pm. The event is supported by Friends of Kiama Library, and will feature an author talk and a brief Q&A.

"It's been an interesting life," she said. "A lot of fun overall, but some very hard times as well."

Call 4233 1133 or email library@kiama.nsw.gov.au to book.

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