It was 1991 when Dennis Hardin and Bryan Masters met at their workplace, a mild-mannered Midwestern newspaper office. They quickly bonded over their shared adoration of Sunrise acoustic guitar pickups (Attention Sunrise execs: Endorsement deal right here. Seriously.) and started sharing tunes after work, back porch-style.
Dennis played a broad range of styles, from bluegrass to 80s rock to jazz standards. Bryan would mostly play songs he had written, and Dennis was quick to flesh out the tunes with wicked-but-copacetic guitar arrangements.
It wasn't long before the pair hooked up with Mark Horton and Barney Byard to form Stick Men, an altgrass outfit that presaged the Great Americana Scare by the better part of a decade. Bryan shared songwriting duties with Horton, and Dennis turned his attention to mandolin. Lead vocals were spread around, and harmonies were strung about like Christmas lights. The band made one great eponymous recording before flaming out in 1994.
Bryan moved on as half of his other musical project -- the late great Howdy -- while Dennis played extensively with the swingin' Pragmatics. Both acts enjoyed considerable regional acclaim.
Meanwhile, Bryan and Dennis continued to play together, and built a solid reputation on the stage of Wichita's legendary Panama Red's. Soon enough they were opening for the likes of James McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen and Dwight Yoakam.
Over time, Bryan's songs grew up, and he began to garner notice as a unique voice that ranged from silly to sublime. Meanwhile, Dennis' playing simply got sharper and wiser, and his guitar and mandolin parts rang with new emotional clarity.
Performing as Masters & Hardin, the duo accumulated a deep repertoire of Bryan's songs, and a few oddball cover tunes as well. And after years of rehearsal, these fellas are ready to roll with the best the region has to offer.
Look for Back Porch Buddha to stretch their musical boundaries as a duo, and to team up with jazz players, bluegrassers, headbangers and tuxedos as they explore the south forty of their musical terrain.
Bryan Masters' crooked heart was educated along the two-lane blacktops and dirt roads of Kansas, and his music speaks of small towns, dreams lost and found, and the torments of real love and dented hearts. One reviewer described him as "a guy who'd like to see the world in romantic terms if there just wasn't so much evidence to the contrary."
A staple of the Kansas acoustic music scene, Bryan's evocative songwriting and emotive performances have gathered a devoted audience of listeners with a penchant for Sunday mornings, carnival rides, comfort and chaos.
Attentive Kansans will recognize Bryan's voice and songs maybe from his former bands Shoobachs, Howdy and Stick Men, where he first played with Dennis Hardin. Bryan has released two solo CDs, So Low and Thundar the Boy Giant. He has also seen lots of his songs make it into the winners' circle in the Walnut Valley Festival's New Songs Showcase.
These days, Bryan performs as half of Back Porch Buddha with co-conspirator and six-string franchise Dennis Hardin.
Dennis Hardin grew up in the near shadows of St. Louis. Already a garage-band kid at 13, he and his brothers first learned a repertoire of songs by The Doors. He followed his musical muse through prog-rock, bluegrass, southern boogie and more by the time he arrived in Wichita in the 80s.
His Wichita resume is impressive -- first as guitarist for area bluegrass favorites Cause for Concern, then as sideman to evil genius Paul Elwood in Zillion Simoleans. He dug his cleats into the folk turf with regionally-acclaimed Matfield Cafe and, years later, with the swingin' Pragmatics.
Notable was the altgrass combo Stick Men, which fostered Dennis' courtship with the mandolin. Along with Barney Byard and Bryan Masters, Dennis and guitarist Mark Horton stitched an airtight guitar/mandolin tapestry that was a full decade ahead of its time. After Stick Men disbanded, Dennis and Bryan continued to play together until ... well, now. Dennis also keeps company with his other musical projects, Pop and the Boys and The Mischief Makers.
Dennis is also a seriously great cook. If Dennis offers to feed you, accept the offer. He is also a devoted bicyclist, participating in those insane bike rides wherein otherwise rational people will ride upwards of 150 miles per day. For fun. And Dennis will extol from the mountaintop the virtues of fixed-gear bikes. Seriously.
He is also an all-around nice guy, and he is threatening to exhume his dusty, rusty fiddle from its 20-year exile. Eager ears await.