Melbourne/Sydney 1960s - present

Singer, guitarist, harmonica player and songwriter Matthew "Dutch" Tilders (b.1939) has been one of Australia's foremost blues and roots performers since the 1960s. He is one of the many prominent Australian musicians who came to this country during the era of post-WWII migration; as his nickname implies, Dutch was born in the Netherlands in 1941, and came to Australia with his parents, four brothers and a sister in 1955. At the age of ten, he joined a church choir, but by the time he was twelve, his alto voice had broken and become a baritone. When he was thirteen, he joined a boys choir at a secondary school by tricking sing the choir master into believing he was an alto when in fact he was singing falsetto (he can still produce those high falsetto notes to this day).

Dutch's first year in Australia was spent in the Brooklyn Migrant Hostel in Victoria, and it was here that he gained his first experience as a performer in an amateur Black and White Minstrel Show. His first paid gig, aged only fifteen, was at the Collingwood Town Hall, where he played the harmonica. On the same bill were IMT veteran Joff Ellen and Johnny O'Keefe. Dutch was paid £2/7s/6d, which at the time equivalent to half his weeks wages at Broons timberyard in Brooklyn. It only cost two pounds and sixpence for the taxi home. He bought his first guitar in 1959 and by 1960 he was playing on Melbourne's coffee lounge folk scene. According to Noel McGrath, Dutch's first recording was made in 1961 when he cut a 10" album of songs at a friend's home studio.

Making up most of his songs as he went along, he quickly settled on blues as the style that best suited his expression, and with no one to teach him, he developed his own distinctive style. In 1962 he teamed up with Shane Duckham and they became a popular fixture on the Sydney folk circuit, but in the late Sixties he performed only occasionally. However in September 1970 Dutch decided to try his luck on the popular TV talent quest New Faces, and this lighthearted decision was to change the course of his life:

"I never decided to become a professional musician. It all just developed from playing parties and the occasional coffee lounges. I went on a TV talent quest (Channel 9's New Faces) just for a laugh. Won the heat and got a record contract with Ron Tudor. Things got out of hand and I had to give up my day job."

Tudor (owner of Fable Records) was so impressed with Dutch that he subsequently signed him to his new Bootleg subsidiary. With producer Brian Cadd at the controls, Dutch recorded his self-titled debut album in late 1972 and it was released in early 1973. His musical collaborators included Cadd, Phil Manning, Barry Sullivan and Barry Harvey (Chain), Laurie Pryor (The Twilights) and Broderick Smith (The Dingoes). On Side 1 he performed Delta-style acoustic blues, while Side 2 featured Dutch(backed by members of Chain) performing Chicago-style electric blues.

Over the next few years Dutch became a fixture on Australian live scene and performed at the Sunbury Festival in both 1973 and 1974. In 1974 Dutch toured as the support for John Mayall and he shared an LP release with Margret RoadKnight, Australian Jazz of the 70s, Vol. 5: The Blues Singers, released on the Jazznote label; this was re-released in 1980 on Larrikin under the title Bluesmakers. Towards the end of year he featured as part of the all-star lineup that for the final concerts at Melbourne venue Garrison, which were recorded and released on two LPs by Mushroom Records; Dutch's performance of the song "Sweet Marie" was included on the second disc, Garrison: The Final Blow, Unit 2.

Dutch's second LP, Break, was recorded live to 2-track and released on the Eureka label in 1975. His backing group featured Foreday Riders members Phil Colson (guitar) and Rick Lock (drums) plus Don Reid (sax), Keith Dubber (trumpet, flugelhorn) and John  Power (bass, ex-Co. Caine and later of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons). The album mixed blues standards with several originals by Dutch, and a single, "I'm a mean mistreater / "21st Birthday Rag", was also issued. In 1976, having only heard Dutch's recordings, B.B. King assumed that he was black. Dutch and Brownie McGee became good friends simply because Browney believed that the Dutchman was a genuine bluesman, regardless of his racial origins. Dutch's third LP, Working Man (Eureka, 1977) featured another all-star backing group -- blues harp maestro Jim Conway (Captain Matchbox), Kerryn Tolhurst and John Bois (Country Radio, Dingoes), Ray Arnott (Spectrum), and Jeff King (Foreday Riders). 

During the late seventies, Dutch fronted renowned blues and boogie bands including The Elks, the Cyril B. Bunter Band and Mickey Finn. In 1979 Dutch made Australian recording history with his next LP, which was recorded using the direct-to-disc process. It featured Jim Conway, saxophonist Bob Bertles (The Meteors) and bassist Peter Howell. In 1980 he formed the 'R&B Six', a band that included Charley Elul (drums), Peter Frazer (sax), Suzanne Petersen (flute and vocals), Mick Eliot (guitar) and Dave Murray (bass and vocals). This band toured Australia extensively. Dutch also worked solo and toured as support for visiting greats like John Mayall, Taj Mahal, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. Also in 1980 Dutch cut his second direct-to-disc LP, The Blues Had A Baby, recorded with The Kevin Borich Express, plus Bob Bertles; the single "Bad books / "The blues had a baby" was released in April 1981.

Dutch continued to perform regularly throughout the late 1980s, but regrettably he did not release any new recordings in this period. In 1980 he formed The Blues Club with Geoff Achison (guitar), Martin Corcoran and Terry (Jerry?) Noone (sax), Barry Hills (bass), and Winston Galea (drums). They recorded two albums, The Blues Is My Life (Apr. 1990) and Live (1993). The Holey Soles also contributed one track to the compilation album Real Australian Blues (Blues Club, 1992); his best Eureka recordings were compiled for the "best Of' album Eureka Files 1975-1980 (Blues Club/Empire, 1992) and the next year he recorded a live album,  Live at the Station (Blues Club/Empire Records, 1993). Dutch's next band was The Holey Soles; the original lineup was Anthony Harkin (harmonica), Barry Hills (bass) and Ian Clarke (drums); the second lineup featured Clarke, Luke Keogh (harp), and Peter Howell (bass). This was followed by The Dutch Tilders Band (ca. 1996) with Greg Dodd (guitar), Barry Hills and Winston Galea.

Over the last decade Dutch has continued to perform and record -- in 1998 he released the album I'm a Bluesman (Empire Records, 1998), followed by One More Time - Live at St Andrews (Rob Harwood Archives/MBAS/Standrooze, 2001) and he also featured on Highlights of Bob Barnard's Jazz Party (Nif Nuf Jazz No. 43/017, 2003). In 2004 his 1970s albums Direct and Blues Had A Baby were remastered and reissued in a two-for-one package by Black Market Music. Dutch's most recent album, Mine & Some I Adopted, was released by Black Market Music in 2005.

Dutch has been honoured with many awards, most notably for his performances with The Blues Club. Nowadays he mainly performs as a solo artist, though he still gets together with ace guitarist and longtime collaborator Geoff Achison, who with Ken Hatton and Rob O'Toole form Dutch Tilders 'Blusicians'. Among his many honours and awards, Dutch is official patron of the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society, he has received the Allan Stafford Award for Services to the Blues, he won the Victorian/Tasmanian Blues Music Awards 'Best Song of the Year' with "Imagination Blues" and its 'Artist of the Year', he has been inducted into the Australian Blues Music Awards Hall of Fame, and he has received the CFA (Country Fire Authority) Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement, the Australian Blues Music Heritage Award, the Australian Blues Music Awards Male Artist of the Year, the Australian Blues Artist Critics’ Award, the Blues On Air Australian Blues Performer Award, the Australian Blues Artist Critics Award, the Blues On Air 'Australian Blues Performer' Award and the Blues On Air Australian Blues Recording Award with "The Blues is My Life".



"I'm a mean mistreater / "21st Birthday Rag" (Eureka)

Feb. 1977
"Goodnight Irene" / ""Working Man" (Eureka)

"Blues Had A Baby" (Eureka/RCA)

April 1981
"Bad Books / "The Blues Had A Baby" (Eureka)


I'm A Mean Mistreater (Eureka demo EP)

Working Man (Eureka demo EP)


Dutch Tilders (Fable / Bootleg BLA-021)

Side 1:
1. "That's Alright Mama" 
2. "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town" 
3. "Cryin' Won't Make Me Stay" 
4. "Chimney-Sweep Blues" 
5. "Wee Wee Baby" 
6. "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" 
7. "Whispering" 
Side 2:
1. "It Hurts Me Too" 
2. "Southbound Train Blues" 
3. "Kansas City Blues" 
4. "In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down" 
5. "Hard to Love a Woman" 
6. "Keys to the Highway" 
7. "Walk Right In"
Produced by Brian Cadd

Australian Jazz Singers - The Blues Singers (Jazznote/Larrikin)
Shared release with Margret RoadKnight
reissued 1980 as Bluesmakers (Larrikin)

Break (Eureka E-101)

Garrison: The Final Blow, Unit 2 (Mushroom)
Various artists live album, incl. the Dutch Tilders track "Sweet Marie"

Working Man (Eureka)

Direct (Eureka)

The Blues Had A Baby (Eureka/RCA)

The Blues Is My Life (Blues Club/Empire Records)

Eureka Files 1975-1980 (Blues Club/Empire)

Live at the Station (Blues Club/Empire Records)

I'm a Bluesman (Empire Records)

One More Time - Live at St Andrews
(Rob Harwood Archives/MBAS/Standrooze)

Highlights of Bob Barnard's Jazz Party (Nif Nuf Jazz No. 43/017)

Dutch Direct / Blues Had A Baby (Remastered) (Black Market Music)

Mine & Some I Adopted (Black Market Music)

References / Links

Dutch Tilders official website

Ian McFarlane
Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)

Noel McGrath
Australian Encylopedia of Rock (Outback Press, 1979)

Dutch Tilders videos and film-clips on YouTube

Australian Music Online - Dutch Tilders interview