When Matt Taylor was 24 he was first described as the Father of Australian Blues and at 28, the Grandfather of Australian Blues. So now in his sixties, what does that make him?
Australian Blues didn't just suddenly appear it had to evolve and Matt Taylor was there all the way through. His personal journey takes in many of the great changes of the last 50 years, from a time when police could cut a young man’s hair with a razor blade without complaint, to a time when people power could end an unpopular war.
The first LP Matt ever purchased was the Beatles 'Please Please Me'. He loved the stories of Chuck Berry and the energy of Little Richard so he bought their Greatest Hits albums. Australia was a Blues free zone until British R&B exploded on the music scene headed by the Rolling Stones. Matt wondered ‘who were these OLD MEN’ with the unusual names Howling Wolf, Slim Harpo, Bo Diddliy and Muddy Waters. At 15 Matt went to Melbourne to find blues records and on his return formed the first traditional Australian blues band ‘The Bay City Union". They did their first gig on the same weekend decimal currency was introduced, 14th Feb 1966. Eventually Matt took over as front-man and had to learn the words, when he couldn't understand many of the Mississippi accents, he made his own words up.
The Blues had to struggle for a voice in the Victorian Town Halls where several bands a night would display their wares. The Bay City Union soon gained the reputation as the traditional Blues band. Blues undeservedly gained the reputation of emptying dance-floors and the band members joined other outfits. Matt tried to keep the band going with new members to no avail. Now out of work, Matt started to compose. Songs poured out of him and like the old blues-men, he wrote from his own experience. Matt’s next band ‘Horse’ was mostly original but still a Blues- band. Matt’s old hero Lobby Lloyd introduced Matt to Billy Thorpe who was in Melbourne to form a Blues-Rock band. In interviews Billy would say there was this guy Matt Taylor who kept the blues flame burning in a surname of pop.
Meanwhile, Wendy Saddington had formed ‘Chain’ with the ex-Bay City Union member Phil Manning. They invited Matt to guest at the blues and soul night at the Thumping Tum disco. Matt was suddenly in demand and was invited to join the alternative super group ‘Genesis’ in the wake of England's ‘Blind Faith’. Genesis was mostly original with input from some of Australia's foremost musicians and started to gain a big following. At this time, Matt was approached by a 17 year old office boy from one of the booking agencies to secure exclusive rights to book Genesis… that lad was Michael Gudinski . Needing a new guitarist, Matt sent a telegram to Phil Manning asking if he wanted to join ‘Genesis’ , a few days later he received a letter inviting him to join Chain.
And so he did. Matt joined Phil Manning, Barry Sullivan and Barry Harvey in Brisbane for Chains first practice. They rehearsed what songs they mutually knew then at the end of the night Phil played a riff that caught Matt's attention. "I've always wanted to do a work song". ‘Black and Blue’ was written that night. Michael Gudinski had promised Matt that If they made him manager, on their return to Melbourne they'd be the hottest band in town. True to his word Chain was packing town hall discos and because of the change in the drinking age from 21 to 18, every Saturday Chain would play The Village Green Hotel. This was right at the beginning of Australian Pub Rock. ‘Black and Blue’ replaced ‘Spectrums’ ‘I'll be gone’ at the top of the 3XY Rock Music charts. It stayed on top for 19 weeks before being replaced by ‘Daddy Cools’ ‘Eagle Rock’. Chain broke up before their soon to be Gold Album ‘Toward the Blues’ was released.