Born at Worsley, Lancashire, Tyldesley began his first-class career with Lancashire in 1895 and was a regular player until the First World War began in August 1914. He played Test cricket from 1899 to 1909. Tyldesley served in the British Army during the war, attaining the rank of corporal, and then recommenced his Lancashire career in 1919. He effectively retired from first-class cricket at the end of that season but did make one further appearance in 1923. Through the 1920s, Tyldesley ran a sports goods shop on Deansgate in Manchester. He played for Lancashire Second XI for some years until the end of the 1926 season when he concentrated on coaching, remaining with Lancashire and running his business until he died, aged 57, at his home in Monton, Eccles, Lancashire.
Johnny Tyldesley was born at Roe Green, Worsley on 22 November 1873 and received his early training in Lancashire club cricket, described by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack as "a very stiff school". He played for the Worsley Cricket Club in 1892 and 1893 before joining the Lancashire Second XI in 1894. Wisden considered him "a well equipped batsman" when he made his first-class debut for Lancashire in 1895. Tyldesley was often formally referred to by his initials but was generally known as "Johnny" or as "John Tommy".
Tyldesley made his first-class debut, also his County Championship debut, on 22 July 1895, playing for Lancashire against Gloucestershire in a drawn match at Old Trafford. Batting in the middle order, he scored 13 and 33 not out. In his second match for Lancashire, Tyldesley scored 152 not out with 17 fours and 1 six against Warwickshire on a rain-affected pitch at Edgbaston, enabling Lancashire to win by an innings and 54 runs. He played in ten first-class matches in 1895 and 17 in 1896. His innings at Edgbaston remained his only century in that period, though he scored six half-centuries in 1896 with a top score of 68.
Having been runners-up five times in the previous six seasons, Lancashire won their first official County Championship title in 1897. Tyldesley began the season with a run of indifferent scores and did not make a half-century until his fourteenth match, starting on 1 July at Old Trafford, when he scored 54 and 53 against Essex. He followed up with three successive centuries, scoring 106 and 100 not out in the same match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston and then 174, his highest score to date, against Sussex at Old Trafford. After that, his form lapsed again and, apart from one innings of 68 against Somerset at Old Trafford, he made low scores only, including four ducks, in the remainder of the season. He generally batted at number five for Lancashire in 1897. His season tally was 1,017 runs in 26 matches at the average of 30.81. He scored three centuries, three half-centuries and held 13 catches. He surpassed 1,000 runs in a season for the first time, going on to achieve the feat in each of nineteen successive seasons.