The Pub with No Beer is fast becoming an urban myth and the writer of the song, Gordon Parsons is not getting the credit he deserves.
In a recent article in the QantasLink ‘Spirit’ magazine featuring people from Macksville, Joy Lane gives Slim Dusty credit for the song.
Let me tell you the true facts. I moved to Taylors Arm in 1948 aged nine, when my parents bought the butcher shop there. My Uncle, Joe Cooper, his sons Joe and Alick (Slugger) and Gordon Parsons would call at the butcher shop on their way to Sheet O Bark to cut cedar. While my uncle got meat for the camp and had a cuppa with my parents, the others would go to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. I remember the pub did run out of beer, during the bad flooding in the early 1950’s. The blitz truck could not get through. The people Gordon mentioned in his song were all well known to me.
The Ingham hotel QLD is the pub used for the poem ‘A pub without beer’ written by Dan Sheahan. That pub ran dry when the American serviceman arrived. Gordon acknowledges that he was given the first verse of that poem and used it as the basis for his song. The song was written by the campfire at Sheet O Bark, further up the river than Burrapine and Thumb Creek. Hence, the words ‘at the campfire at night where the wild dingoes roam’. Gordon’s music company went to court to prove the words and music about the Cosmopolitan Hotel, were written by Gordon and not connected to the QLD poem mentioned above. Gordon won that case and collected the royalties from his song.
Slim Dusty, who knew Gordon, wanted a ‘B’ song for a record he was recording, and Gordon let him use The Pub with no Beer. There is no doubt that Slim made the song famous. When I met Gordon's widow Jeanette in 2006 at Taylors Arm, when they revived the Pub with No Beer festival, she joked that Gordon said ‘Slim got the Gold Plate and I got the Tin Plate’.
Gordon was upset when the Ingham hotel was acknowledged as ‘The Pub with no Beer’. In an article in the Guardian News April 25 1986, Gordon said ‘the hotel is not his song’. Sadly, even Slim Dusty agreed that the Ingham Hotel (now Lees) was the hotel of the song. Slims wife Joy is quoted as saying Gordon’s song was written out west when Gordon was with Chad Morgan, who also had connection to Taylors Arm. That is how an urban myth starts.
Gordon, named the Yodelling Cowboy, was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996
He was born in Sydney in 1926 and lived his young life on the Bellinger River. Gordon died in 1990 and is buried at Minchinbury.
Jennifer Preston, Canberra
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