About Us

Out of the Phoenix area, The Back Porch Bandits have provided energetic, expert string-band music at concerts, festivals and public and private gatherings for over fifteen years! A mix of bluegrass, Old-Time, cowboy/country, folk and originals comprises their “Banditgrass” music, appealing to wide audiences.

Available in gangs of two to five pickers, from back yards to concert halls, the Bandits will put fun in your function!


The Ringleader

Bandleader Ken Clemmer is a Texas native and long-time Arizonan. Ken loves the improvisational music of acoustic stringed instruments, and he plays guitar and sings lead and harmony for the Bandits.   He knows the lyrics to about a million tunes, including several of his originals, and a sense of humor is his prized possession. Ken occasionally performs solo, and his Back Porch Bandits shows often include an array of some of the state’s finest acoustic pickers.  To wit:

The Banjoboy

Josh Tharp’s license plate reads “BNJOBOY”, which doesn’t half cover it. An instrumental phenom, he expertly plays about anything with strings in a variety of styles. Banjo, guitar, dobro, mandolin, heck knows what all – and he builds high-grade instruments as well. Josh sings pure, clear harmony, and you’ve seen him at many of the Bandits shows. Ain’t he cute?

The Mandolin Monster

Billy Parker, mandolinist extraordinaire, has long experience in many groups in Arizona and elsewhere.  He also plays guitar, mandola, and who knows what all, and he’s a fine singer.  Billy and Ken are the only Bandits appearing on all three Bandits CD’s, spanning a time frame of nearly fifteen years. Time just flies when you’re havin’ fun…

The Fiddle “Doctor”
“Doctah Ron” Rutowski often adds his extreme talent to the Bandits‘ shows, and he’s something to behold.  Blazing fast or smooth and sweet, Ron’s fiddle style is widely admired and as good as there is.  He also plays banjo and flatpicks guitar at performance levels, and he has traveled internationally…to see butterflies.  Sheese.  This guy.

The Bassboy in The Popup Hat
Joel Dowling, often the colorful bass player of the Bandits, sometimes sings lead and harmony and even takes the occasional string bass solo…to the delight of Bandits audiences.  Some of our frisky bluegrass tunes keep him pretty busy in that regard…  Joel also performs solo and in smaller groups, playing guitar and mandolin.

A few of The Guest Gang

The Bandits‘ pickers list reads like a Who’s Who in Arizona’s acoustic music scene. In addition to our semi-regulars at Back Porch Bandits performances, here are some of the guest Bandits you might’ve seen:

Jim Govern, “Mr. Smooth” on mandolin
“Mando” Mark Miracle
Lee Gendvilas, banjo, bass, mandolin
Raychel Rose, Fiddle Princess!
Karl Maerz, dobro maestro
Steve Thomas - banjo, mandolin, fiddle
Steve Thomas – banjo, mandolin, fiddle
Peter Rolland fiddle garden
Peter Rolland fiddle garden
Fred Coon, master of a unique Old-Time banjo style
Jess fiddle CAA
Jess, fiddle
Bill Vernieu, mandolin/guitar
Carey “Stache” Grzadzinski, bass
Rudy Cortese, banjo maniac


We can provide music in many styles: strolling players, Western/cowboy music, campfire/hayride entertainment, coffeehouse-style folk, and more.

We enjoy FESTIVALS of all sorts, CORPORATE EVENTS, CONCERTS, PRIVATE PARTIES, and more – anywhere folks are having fun. Whatever the size and location – large, small, indoors, outdoors – we have sound gear sufficient for the occasion, and we occasionally play “unplugged” for small groups and venues.

Reasonable rates, low maintenance. You’ll find us professional, dependable, equipped and ready. If we accept the gig, we can DO the gig.

Agent/promoter inquiries are welcome.