Hey Ledgestone fans! The highly sought after, mind-blowingly colorful Grateful Buzzz is coveted by people around the world. But did you know the most beautiful disc series in the sport wouldn’t exist without someone trying to eat a Tide Pod?
Yes, you read that right. Without the deadly ingestion of detergent packets, there would be no Grateful Buzzz. More on that later.
It’s the 5-year anniversary of the Grateful Buzzz and world-renowned artist Michael Barnard has knocked it out of the park again with his 2023 design.
The tie-dye covered skeleton throwing a disc with a signature, flowing mane of roses graces the center of the 2023 design. The bold Grateful Buzzz lettering is paired with the classic Deadhead lightning bolts to frame the illustration. The first release in February sold out almost instantly.
Each year Barnard produces a unique piece of art for this series, a series which has acquired a large collector following and admiration all across the disc golf community. Full foil, full color designs complete with inspirations fueled by the eclectic style and elements of the hallowed rock band, Grateful Dead.
“I chose the Grateful Dead theme because I thought the trippy, colorful vibes you get from those discs would go over well in the disc golf community,” he said. “Before it even came out, I was saying we should try and keep this as a series. There was a lot to work with and room to come up with something new.”
The collaboration with Ledgestone began in 2019 with the first edition of the Grateful Buzzz, a design which Barnard still calls his favorite.
“The first time we put it together, I thought it really turned out nice,” he said. “When it came out it was a huge hit. We immediately started talking about the next one, and that one was a hit. They’ve all come out really nice and it has been a fun series to work on.”
The 2019 smash hit featured a skeleton sitting in a field of grass and colorful mushrooms during sunrise. Curly, rose-filled hair bursts from the top of the skull while the rib cage has been replaced by chains to resemble a disc golf basket. Bee skeletons fly around the edges of the design while the block lettering of “Grateful Buzzz” and a vine of large, red roses form a thick border.
The term “Grateful Buzzz” is now synonymous with disc golf and Barnard is tied directly into that. What’s interesting is that just six years ago, in 2018, Barnard barely had a clue what disc golf was. His only experience was driving past a course in Daytona Beach on his way to work every day, which was almost always vacant.
“I never saw anybody out there and didn’t know anything about it,” he said.
But art has the ability to transcend all barriers.
In 2018, the nation was in the midst of a viral social media trend known as the “Tide Pod Challenge”. People would film themselves biting into Tide’s washing detergent pods and either swallowing the contents or spitting them out. The challenge posed serious health risks and multiple campaigns were launched to stamp out the trend. One attempt to quell the hysteria was a Tide-commissioned Barnard illustration showing a green-faced child throwing up after trying to eat a Tide Pod.
Barnard’s Tide art, known as Tide Pod Rod, caught the eye of a disc golf organizer in Detroit by the name of Tony Jewett. Jewett owns an online retail site called Detroit Disc Company LLC that sells disc golf merchandise with special art.
“Tony and I struck up a conversation,” Barnard said. “He told me people love full-color discs and if I would let him put my design on some discs, he’d run 50 of them and give 10 of them to me in exchange for letting me use the art. He sent me the 10 discs and they sold right away and I thought we might be onto something.”
Jewett’s connections in the disc golf world allowed Barnard’s new-found bond with the sport to take off essentially overnight. Within days, he had messages from manufacturers and people in the industry looking to form a collaboration. One such connection was Bob Julio at Discraft.
“Tony put me in touch with Bob Julio,” Barnard said. “That led to a bunch of Buzzz designs like the 80s Buzzz and the Disco Buzzz. I did four that first year.”
The Discraft ties led to a conversation with Nate Heinold at Ledgestone and Barnard was commissioned for several designs including the coloration of several Les White drawings. After continued success, Heinold and Barnard put their heads together and decided to pursue the annual Grateful Buzzz series.
Later this year that series will expand even further as Ledgestone will release a custom, Grateful Buzzz-themed Zuca cart and the first ever run of Grateful Zones.