HORDES of country music fans descended on Peel St yesterday to witness the unveiling of bronze statues of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean.
More than 1000 onlookers squashed up against crowd barriers, craning their necks for the first view of the $183,000 monument, the latest work of renown Newcastle sculptor Tanya Bartlett.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell joined “true blue” legend John Williamson to reveal the life-sized statues, which sit just outside Best and Less, in a ceremony laced with big name guests.
Joy McKean, who was on hand to see the historic unveiling, said her late husband would have been as thrilled as she was with the tribute.
“I think he would have felt the same as I do,” Joy said. “It’s just remarkable, it feels a bit surreal. You never dream of something happening like this.”
Tamworth regional mayor Col Murray said the statue was long overdue recognition of Slim and Joy’s contribution to the industry and their role in making the Tamworth Country Music Festival one of the world’s largest major music events.
“It is a much-deserved tribute to Slim and Joy who not only played a key role in establishing Australia’s country music industry, but who supported and helped build Tamworth as Australia’s Country Music Capital,” Cr Murray said.
“We are truly honoured to have Joy and her family here to celebrate this momentous occasion.”
Slim and Joy’s daughter Anne Kirkpatrick thanked the community for their “truly lovely dedication.
“Our family would like to thank the committee and all its supporters for creating this wonderful bronze statue as it will be a true legacy to the ongoing memory of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean for generations to come,” she said.
The statues are the result of more than 12 months of work by the Slim and Joy Appeal Committee, a community-based organisation formed to raise the funds for the statue.
TRC donated $50,000 to the cause, while the state and federal governments contributed $40,000 and $30,000 respectively.
There were also donations from a number of Tamworth businesses and country music industry identities and organisations.
The monument is based on a photo taken in 1957 which shows the first couple of country music in their prime, just when the Slim Dusty legend was gathering steam.
The unveiling of the statues was one of a series of special events honouring Slim Dusty, who passed away 10 years ago, and which started with the Slim Dusty Tribute Concert on Wednesday night and will finish with today’s cavalcade .