Partner of Slim Dusty, Joy McKean, said that Slim composed “A Pub With No Beer” in a caravan at either Forbes or Wyalong. Slim took some lines he had been given by a Macksville local, looked at the characters he knew from the Cosmopolitan Hotel at Taylors Arm (near Macksville) and by making four-line verses and creating four new characters around which the song hinges - the stockman, the swaggie, the dog and his master - built a great ballad. Slim effectively borrowed the melody from a presumed public domain song, Stephen Foster's parlour piece, Beautiful Dreamer, which was published just after his death in 1864. Slim raised A Pub With No Beer up a key and dropped one verse in the studio when he finally recorded it. It duly went down April1, 1957, in one take with just one accompanist. It was pressed up as the B-side of Saddle Boy. And that was pretty much the last he expected to hear of that particular recording. The first feedback came in the form of knowing looks and winks, and the occasional "Now, how did you get away with that?" query. "With what?" he responded, until, as he would later write, "it happened so many times that I knew what the next line was going to be". What they were hearing, or thought they were hearing, was: "But the bastard's inside, drinking wine with his mates." It was perplexing, to be sure. "I have never claimed to have the finest diction in the land," Slim said, "but the words as I thought I sang them were, 'But the boss is inside ..."'

Sales started to climb and they climbed and climbed, mostly in city record shops. When the national tally reached 50,000 it became EMI's highest selling hit to date. It stayed on the charts a full six months. It did much more than that, this song that, as Slim put it, "appealed to almost all Australians". It was a No.1 hit in Australia (something beyond even foreign-recorded country songs), it was Australia's first gold record (now defined as 35,000 copies shipped, but vaguer then), its only gold 78rpm and it enjoyed substantial global success when few in the top half of the world knew that there was such a thing as an Australian recording. It entered the British top three in January 1959 and also sold well in parts of Europe and Canada. Slim rode it for all it was worth. A touted British tour might not have come to pass because of nefarious promoter deeds, but at home he was king of the castle, with TV appearances on Bandstand and Six O'Clock Rock. In 1958 there was not just one Dusty hit about the beer-dry pub but three. A Pub With No Beer reached No.1, The Answer to the Pub With No Beer was No.10 and "Sequel To A Pub With No Beer" No.11. As a subject it was to prove durable.

Here for download is "Sequel To A Pub With No Beer":



  1. I'm confused TomMix!
    If Slim Dusty wrote/composed "Pub with No Beer" then why does the Single's Record Label give credit to "Gordon Parsons" for the song?
    I came across a mint condition copy some weeks ago at a Trash & Treasure - so there is no question about the labelling (can also see the reference to Gordon Parson in an enlarged view of the single's screen shot)
    Oh, by the way,credit is also given to Dick Carr and his Bushlanders as the backing band

  2. Having re-thought this through I think I know what the answer is going to be.
    Slim Dusty was his stage name, but Gordon Parsons was his real name?

  3. In actual fact - David Kirkpatrick was Slim's name. Gordon Parsons actually wrote the song and gave it to Slim to records all those years ago.

  4. The man who gave Slim the idea for the song was mentioned in the first part of the chapter I wrote.

    Gordon Parsons was the local from Macksville that gave Slim the rough outline of the song which was only ever going to be the B-side.

    Slim still gave Gordon the credit even though Slim changed the plot and added parts etc....Slim worked on the idea over a number of weeks and Chad Morgan also helped Slim get it to flow better....but it was only going to be the B-side.


  5. Further notes:

    It is claimed that the song's origins lie with some verse written by a Dan Sheahan of Ingham in Queensland. However, the song is usually credited to Macksville timber worker Gordon Parsons who may well have transformed Sheahan's verse. At any rate it became a national number one in the hands of Slim Dusty.

    The Cosmopolitan is now officially called The Pub with No Beer. The Pub With No Beer Festival is held here every year at Easter, tel: (02) 6564 2101. It is located 26 km west of Macksville at Taylors Arm.