Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future

If there is a Heaven on Earth, Barth Grayson Farms in Bald Knob could possibly be it.

By: Jun. 06, 2023
Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future

If there is a Heaven on Earth, Barth Grayson Farms in Bald Knob could possibly be it. At approximately 1,000 acres, give or take a few hundred, this land has it all: walking trails, a gorgeous 8-acre lake, vegetable gardens, herds of frolicking deer, and rolling hills that cater to the multitudes of music lovers that visit the area.  

Broadway World had the privilege to not only hang out at the farm and get a tour of the land during Knobstock ‘23, but prior to that, my interview partner Blake Woodson and I had a nice chat with the owner Barth Grayson about his influence on concert events in Central Arkansas.     

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future BWW: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Blake has told me that you have a long history of producing concerts in Arkansas. What made you want to do music festivals? 

Barth Grayson: When I first got out of high school, I started working security at Barton Coliseum. Not many concerts go to Barton Coliseum anymore, because they've got the Simmons Bank Arena and the Riverside Amphitheater, but when I got to work with security, I’d work around the stage and enjoyed that. Then, I got to visit with people like Blake does now, and they put me back with the entertainers around their dressing rooms to visit with everybody and the caterers, and I got to thinking through pure ignorance that there wasn’t anything that the promoters were doing that I couldn't do. So, when I started farming on my own in 1980, I got into the music business. My first concert in 1980 was on a hay trailer in front of the house. Then, I built a porch the next year, and we went from 350 to 1,000 people. I built my amphitheater in 1982 and we went up down, then finally in 1987, we had 2,500 with FOGHAT, and then the next month during Strawberry Jam, we had 4,000 people with NAZARETH and MOLLY HATCHET, and it just went up from there. We've had a tremendous number of national bands out here in the 80s.  

BWW: Oh wow! 

Barth: Even Metallica in 1983! BLACK OAK ARKANSAS was here in 1982, when they were still, you know, riding pretty high. They played in front of thousands and thousands of people. From there we’ve had all kinds of bands, like RARE EARTH and HEAD EAST. That was one of the most fun concerts of all, because Roger the bandleader was just a fantastic guy. They partied with everybody. They did. They just loved to have people backstage. I've got some wonderful pictures throughout the years. It’s unbelievable. AUTOGRAPH was another one that was a tremendous show out here on the farm. They shook the leaves from the trees with their speakers. After the ‘87 shows with FOGHAT, MOLLY HATCHET and NAZARETH, we tried to crossover with David Allen COE. We had 1,100 people for the first show with country, and we did DAN SEALS with about 1,000 people, and John Anderson with about 1,100. Then the next year we had LEON RUSSELL, EDGAR WINTER and CANNED HEAT. We flew in CANNED HEAT for the first ever Knobstock in 1988. My goal was to always have a Woodstock performer at Knobstock, but those guys are dying and what's left is just real expensive. We had Knobstock off and on, and I started it back up a few years ago. 

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future
Hunter West at Knobstock '23

When ticket sales started tapering off, Grayson stopped the concerts at the farm and started operating out of the Riverfront Amphitheater in Little Rock. 

Barth: We did some major, major shows during that time.  

Some of those shows included BLUE OYSTER CULT, NAZARETH and LYNYRD SKYNYRD. 

Barth: I had all the contacts with working through the Arkansas JC's and had all the manpower to set up all the merchandisers, beer tents.... and beer tents.... and beer tents. That Skynyrd show was the largest alcohol beer consumer show that's ever been done there....imagine that, and also it was because the numbers were different. I think I told you this the other day, Blake, we drew up a schematic of having bunker bathrooms. People kind of laughed at me about that, but nobody worked it any more than I did, and I knew what we needed. So, they ended up building them, you know, where they were on each side and out of the way. They put the merchandise places for canopies and tents, and they took up space right on the walkways, and they put in permanent seats. Now they can only put, I think, 8,500 down there, I think. 

Blake Woodson: A sell out is 7,000 people right now and you can get 7500 in. 

Barth: You see what I'm talking about? Now guess how many we had in there at the Skynyrd show. 13,000 was what the fire marshal capacity was, but a certain promoter, I'm not mentioned names, printed 1500 black market tickets and the fire marshal came up to me and said, “how many people are in here?” because it was in my name, see, and I said, “well it's sold out, so there is 13,000.” “Oh, there is more than that in here.” I said, “no, it can’t be.” Well, I didn't know he printed another 1500 and sold them out on the street, so there was 14,500 in there. 

Blake: Wow! 

Barth: Yeah, plus the freebies- you know how that goes when you do radio trades and give aways, plus the bands and the workers, so, you know, there was 15,000 people in there, which there will never be that ever again, because the space isn’t there. 

Blake: Yeah, there's no way, no way. 

Barth: Yeah, and then I produced THE MOODY BLUES with the ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA for another promoter. That was a first-class event right there. Then I had two bucket list shows- STEPPENWOLF, we had a good crowd for STEPPENWOLF, and then KANSAS. I did those two on my own, and then another one of the largest rock shows at that time was Peter Frampton

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future
Andy Tanas at Knobstock '23

So, let’s get back to Knobstock. Hosted by my favorite Emcee Blake Woodson, Knobstock featured Travis McCready, Racer Dean, Mason Stills, Dissentious, Hunter West, Andy Tanas aka Mister Andy, Cabover Pete, Spa City Youngbloods, Hiway 67, Greg Collins and Crossroads Reunion, Shine Flyer, and Plum Crazy. Though I missed the first half of the bands because of my tardiness, I can vouch for the rest when I say that the talent at these festivals at Barth Grayson Farms is top rated. For instance, Andy Tanas has played for Krokus and Black Oak Arkansas, Mason Stills singer Samantha B Seauphine is also a member of Black Oak Arkansas, Hunter West is currently making his way in Nashville, and Travis McCready was the lead singer for Bishop Gunn. There was a mixture of blues, rock, and a bit of country amongst the musicians, but Racer Dean stole the show for me. At only 10 years old, Racer Dean rocked out the drum set by himself for a good solid 15 minutes or so. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him!  

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future
10-year old Racer Dean at Knobstock '23

The Master of Ceremonies was another talent that I couldn’t keep from watching every time he commanded the stage. Blake Woodson, ex-radio demigod, had the job of guiding the show throughout the event.  

“Blake Woodson brings the best energy to shows,” Brian Massey, Drummer of Dissentious said. “He’s one of the best emcee’s around, I'm serious. He’s a great guy with a great attitude. He brings the best energy to the shows.” 

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future
Emcee Blake Woodson

Grayson agrees and commends Woodson for his hard work. 

“I do really appreciate Blake,” Grayson said. “I had a guy that was an entertainer and Emcee like Blake is doing for me and my graphic guru like Blake is doing for me, and he died three years ago. So, there's a void right there that Blake has filled. He's a Godsend. He just stepped right out of nowhere and helps me tremendously, and I appreciate that.”  

Besides the fabulous music, Knobstock had vendors that sold items such as t-shirts, toys, and crafts, and we were fed by the award-winning food truck Top Dog Catering, which was so delicious, I wanted to go back for seconds. No, seriously, I had a custom-made dog with cheese and bacon and the strawberry lemonade, and it was the juiciest, mouth-watering dog I have ever had. The folks here know how to satisfy even the pickiest hot dog connoisseur.  

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future
Top Dog Catering

“Everything we have is farm fresh, smoked in season,” Top Dog Catering’s owner Neil Blanford said. “We smoke our own blocks of cheddar cheese, our chili's homemade, and we do freshly grilled toppings like grilled onions, bacon, sauerkraut, jalapeno, and we have gluten free options as well. We also make a fresh fruit strawberry lemonade and a fresh cherry limeade, root beer floats, and all kinds of stuff.” 

Top Dog Catering not only feeds you the best hot dogs around, but they also feed the homeless as well. 

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future “Our proceeds go directly to feed the local hungry and homeless throughout Central Arkansas,” Blanford said. “We do a big homeless drive every quarter where we provide tents, clothes, shoes, food, and hiking products. Then, several services come out to do things like free haircuts and beard trims, we have job finders, workforce technology, and STD health checks-- all different types of things including a bike repair station. Also, if you have a home and you've been struck with tragedy, we take care of your groceries if you can't afford your bills and food.” 

To find out where Top Dog Catering will be next, or to participate in this worthy mission, check out their Facebook page @TopDogCateringArkansas.  

Not only has Grayson entertained the masses with concert after concert, but he has also served his community by being in the newspaper business for 25 years, and, more recently, was Mayor of Bald Knob. 

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future
Emcee Blake Woodson with Top Dog Catering at Knobstock '23

Barth: The newspaper business was very rewarding, you know. It was a community service, though, and we didn't make any real money. I probably could have built a nice house at the farm for the money we vested over 20 years in the newspaper business, but my dad and I both really enjoyed serving our community that way, and people really miss it. They ask every day about starting it back up, but people just don't read newspapers like they used to. 

BWW: Your dad sounds like a great guy. 

Barth: My dad was always a big supporter of mine. He was a Lieutenant Colonel, as well as a principal and schoolteacher. He taught me two years of business, two years of typing, and a lifetime of business principles. Unfortunately, he got Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease, but he got to see the farm paid for and cleaned up, so that was a blessing for him to be able to see that. 

BWW: So, what do you have planned for the future of Barth Grayson Farms? 

Barth: My plan is to have multistage festivals at my farm for the next ten years. So, I'm building a new facility and hopefully debut it during Arkansas Jam over Labor Day. My immediate goal is to get the other stage situation ready for the Arkansas Jam, even though we may bring in a hydraulic stage. Also, we'll have the barn built by then-- And the eclipse festival. Let's not forget that. 

BWW: Oh yes  

Barth: That's a biggie right there. It'll be the weekend preceding the April 8th total eclipse. Bald Knob will have a little over four minutes of totality. For this event, I plan on calling that Knobstock: A Total Eclipse at the Knob.  

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future

BWW: How do you feel these concerts are impacting Bald Knob and the surrounding communities? 

Barth: When people come to the concerts, they have to come through Bald Knob. While here, some stop to buy gasoline and stop at the Quick Mart and Bulldog Restaurant. Actually, a lot of people come specifically to Bald Knob to stop there and get the Strawberry Shortcake at the Bulldog Restaurant. It's seasonal, but it's famous! We have a lot of eateries here and two motels, so they all benefit from the concerts, and they all appreciate it. Back in the 80s, they accused me of turning Bald Knob into California, but everybody likes it now, because everybody's into the music and most people go to concerts. 

BWW: That is a wonderful blessing that you are bringing to your community. 

Barth: I love my community, and I'm ready to fulfill the rest of my visions and my dreams which are real simple: I want to put on multi-stage festivals for the next 10 years, building an event barn that will be my concession stand and can operate during the offseason, and build The Huckleberry Holler Amphitheater, which will be placed beside my beautiful 8-acre lake and beautiful backdrop of rolling hills in the foothills of the Ozarks. 

Well, Broadway World cannot wait to see the new upgrades to this wonderful facility and listen to more great music as God intended. To find out more about upcoming events including Arkansas Jam, Indian Summer Jam, Bigfoot Boogie, and Knobstock: Total Eclipse @ The Knob, follow their Facebook page at Barth Grayson Farms.

Feature: Barth Grayson Farms Brings Back KNOBSTOCK and Plans for The Future

Broadway World would like to thank Blake Woodson for all of his help and guidance. You're awesome!!



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