John Elliott plays homage to Slim Dusty and Joy McKean

SNAPPER SNAPPED: John Elliott was Slim Dusty's official photographer for many years. Photo: Derek Barry
SNAPPER SNAPPED: John Elliott was Slim Dusty's official photographer for many years. Photo: Derek Barry

The film Slim and I was one of the most highly anticipated movies of the Winton Vision Splendid Film Festival this week but one man had good reason for a particularly keen interest.

These days John Elliott works for Winton Shire Council in central western Queensland as a tourism officer but he was one of the best known snappers in rural Queensland and he had a strong affinity with Slim Dusty as his one-time official photographer.

"I started life as a fan, I was the biggest fan on earth and I loved his music because he sang about where I came from, I grew up in Blackall," John said.

"Later in life when I was about 30 I decided to become a photographer and I thought I wanted to photograph country music."

John took the gamble to call Slim and six months later he was hired to take some pictures.

"I lived in Toowoomba and pretty much from that day on, if the record company wanted a picture of Slim shaking hands with someone in Sydney, Slim would say 'get my mate John down to do that'." he said.

"I was very fortunate we became really good friends and we travelled together for a long time. I'm still very close to the family, Joy (McKean, Slim's wife) is like my mother really and Anne (singer and daughter Kirkpatrick) is about the same age."

John said he loved the words in Slim's music.

"Nearly every one of his songs is a celebration of place and places I knew," he said.

"Australian people feel warm about the bush and Slim managed to get the very essence of that into music and his songs."

John said Slim was loyal to his fans constantly coming back to the same places each year such as the Mount Isa Rodeo.

"They did a tour around Australia every year for 30 or 40 years," he said.

"Slim and Joy were so connected with their audience, there'd be people still in Mount Isa that would class them as family friends."

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John had a sneak peek of Slim and I, which was due to open the festival but had to be delayed.

"Slim's grandson James Arneman was one of the producers and he got access to a lot of stuff no one had ever seen," he said.

"It really tells Joy's story, she is an incredible songwriter."

As for John himself, who has lived in Winton for six years and was a former alderman in Mount Isa in the 1970s, he said he stills loves the bush but is planning to move back to the city to work on an ambitious new project which would see him travel the length and breadth of the country.

"For 20 years I've had an idea to build a Slim Dusty national song trail," he said.

"There is a 100 Slim songs about specific places such as the Mount Isa Rodeo, so in every one of those towns we want to build a specific monument to that song and a generic Slim Dusty monument. It will be like a religious pilgrimage.

"We need a truck load of money and Slim's family is on board so we are going to concentrate on that next year."

This story Slim Dusty's official snapper plays homage to the country music star first appeared on The North West Star.