If you have a look at the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society webpage or newsletter, you will find an entry describing their “Eternal Patron”, Dutch Tilders. Many organisations have a patron, but this is the only example I have ever come across of an Eternal Patron. Immediately, you think that this must be something special.
Mattheus “Dutch” Tilders is very special when it comes to blues in Australia. He was born in 1941 in Nijmegen, Holland, and emigrated to Australia in 1955 on the SS Fairsea – a boat person when we welcomed them.
In 1959 he got his first guitar and started playing blues around Melbourne cafés. At this time, jazz and was more popular and there was this strange thing called rock and roll emerging in Australia. There was an outlet in the folk circuits, and folk music remained strong into the seventies when even the major folk festivals broadened and began to welcome other genres.
In 1960 he had released a private recording on vinyl, but in the 1970s he was signed to Bootleg and released his self-titled album, working with Brian Cadd and using Chain as a backing band. He appeared at Sunbury Pop Festivals and toured England with John Mayall.
Returning to Australia, his next album was a joint work with Margaret Roadnight, Australian Jazz of the 70s Vol. 5 The Blues Singers. Most of his tracks on this album were his own originals. This was followed by Break, recorded with musicians from The Foreday Riders and Company Caine. He went on to release a further 12 LPs and three singles.
He supported Sony Terry and Brownie McGee and B.B. King during the seventies. According to legend, B.B. King first heard Dutch from backstage and, from the quality of the performance, expected to see a black bluesman. He ended up working with Brownie McGee for some time and did a number of combined tours. He also toured with Taj Mahal.
In 1981 he even opened for Billy Connolly! In Australia, he fronted the Cyril B Bunter Band, which has recently re-formed, and also The Elks and Mickey Finn. He played with Jim Conway from Captain Matchbox, Kevin Borich and the Express. He had a long-time backing band, The Blues Club, which included Martin Cooper, Winston Galea, Geoff Achison and Barry Hills. After The Blues Club, he formed The Holey Soles with Ian Clarke, Anthony Harkin and Greg Dodd. In fact, it’s probably easier to list the major Australian blues artists that he hasn’t performed with – and that’s probably because they were still at school!
Dutch Tilders was one of the founders of the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society, and made their patron shortly after.
In 2010 his manager announced he had been diagnosed with cancer and a benefit concert was held with a line-up of Tilders, Chain, Kevin Borich Express, Chris Finnen, Steve Russell, Geoff Achison, Lloyd Spiegel, Stevie Page and Jeannie Lushes Band. He retired from performing in January the following year due to the illness and ongoing treatment.
On 23 April 2011 Matthew “Dutch” Tilders died, aged 69.
He was dubbed the “Godfather of Blues” in Australia, and that’s why he will be the MBAS Eternal Patron. Despite all this, I recently saw an artist written up as having played with “The Dutch Tilders!” Truly the penalty of fame is that there are millions of people who have never heard of you. But now, dear reader, you are no longer one of them.
Written by Dr John Lamp. Presented by The Sleepy Hollow Blues Club
Blues News [#591]