Thursday 16 August 2012

Singapore Cowboy - Matthew And The Mandarins

Matthew Tan, the guy in the center with spec.

"Singapore Cowboy" is synonymous with Matthew And The Mandarins, the most popular country and western group in Singapore in the seventies. Matthew Tan, the lead singer, minted the greatest original hit "Singapore Country" that perpetually brings sweet memories of the by-gone days of country and western music for baby boomers, like me.

If you haven't heard of Matthew and The Mandarins, you're not alone. Many people haven't but in the seventies, they were a rage in Singapore among country music lovers.

I can never forget Matthew Tan's southern drawl, slide guitar, cowboy shirts with bulging buckle, Levis's geans and Texan hat. His easy rendition of country and western songs, with rich and powerful Western accent was simply outstanding and Kenny Roger only came close. I also fondly remembered that on my first date with my village sweetheart, I brought her to watch Matthew and The Mandarins at Peacock Room at the Shangrila Hotel. It was my most unforgettable date but unfortunately, I never get to marry her as she preferred classical Chinese music.

Matthew and The Mandarins was the only Singapore group that went on to record an albums in Nashville, Tennessee and eventually 4 albums with EMI that had equally popular golden oldies like, Let's Put the Sing in Singapore, Daytime Friends, Lucille, among others. They used to perform their melodic blend of country and western songs at former Hotel Negara.

In the seventies, when oil business was booming, many American oil riggers would flock to their shows to remind themselves of their country back home. But Matthew and The Mandarins also had a large royal local fan base of country music lovers for almost three decades.

The Hippie Movement was just beginning in late sixties and the Flower People set a movement spreading peace and love. The hugely popular song "San Francisco" sung by Scott Mckenzie in 1967 with his "Be sure to wear flowers in your hair" was credited to bring thousands of young people to San Francisco. Matthew Tan could have achieved the same feat with "Singapore Cowboy" and brought glory to Singapore in the music and tourism industries but he went solo in 1980 and today, Matthew and The Mandarins seems an almost forgotten local talent.

Fast forward and gratefully after almost 30 years, they manage to get together to perform sporadically at various clubs and is now performing every Friday at the Serangon Garden Country Club still 24th of this month. If you are a lover of golden oldies, do pay them a visit for old time sake, just like I did recently before they disappeared forever from our Singapore memory lane.

Matthew And The Mandarins at the Esplanade on 9th Aug. 2009


pearlyn said...


Besides Serangoon Gardens CC, do you know where else does Matthew and the Mandarin perform live?

They are my parents' favourite local band but are not able to make it on fridays to watch them perform at Serangoon Gardens CC. Hence I am looking for other alternatives.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, pearlyn,

Very, very sorry for late rep;y.

I don't know where they are now!

Anonymous said...

I heard the song years ago in the Genieve Bar in Singapore. The group was called "The Grand Combonation" after the house mexican special on the menu.


Anonymous said...

They just did a wonderful performance in Morning coffee and afternoon session on 2 September 2013. It was fantastic and i enjoy every song Matthew sang. Wonder where to get their cds..they will be performing again on 11th November Esplanade Concert Hall with other singers in Yesterday Once More II - A date with friends

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Great stuff here James. Love your post about Matthew and Mandarins.

Anonymous said...

Hi folks, Singapore's very own legendary 'cowboys' ride again at the Stuttgart Blackforest Boutique S-Café on Wednesday, 4 February 2015, from 8pm till late! Visit for more details.