You might not have heard of Jim Marshall, but you've likely seen his work if you're a fan of rock and roll. Marshall passed away this week at age 74, leaving behind a long list of iconic images of music legends. (For samples of his work, you can find galleries from Rolling Stone and NME.com - or check out the official site at MarshallPhoto.com.)
Marshall captured the above image of Johnny Cash during one of the famous trips Cash made to perform in prisons in the U.S. The photo reportedly came about during rehearsal of a show at San Quentin Prison. "What is your message for the warden?" Marshall had asked, and Cash responded with an emphatic middle finger.
And that's what brings us to Dale Jr.
After his father's death in 2001, Dale Jr. had slowly returned to taking media opportunities, choosing carefully from the onslaught of requests. One of them was from Racer magazine, one of the few racing publications which combined quality writing and photography in a slick monthly package. Racer had been kind to Dale Jr. in the past, so it was an easy choice to agree to an interview and photo session for a cover story.
In the midst of the photo shoot in the showroom at Dale Earnhardt Inc., the photographer was making changes to the lighting set-up (aimed at getting the Bud car to shimmer in the polished black marble floor...) and Dale Jr. responded to his publicist with the flip of his middle finger. The photographer quickly snapped one digital frame of the gesture, much to the laughter of everyone including Junior, who said he wanted a copy of the shot.
Several months later, the Dale Jr. story appeared in Racer, complete with a full-page spread of him flipping the bird. Budweiser execs were slightly alarmed, but begrudgingly accepting, unlike some of his smaller associate sponsors, who did their best to make Dale Jr's life uneasy for a week. (It always seems like the smallest sponsor raises the biggest stink...)
Chapter two of the story came the next summer at Sears Point (nee Infineon), California. It seems Bay-area resident Marshall had taken note of young Junior's pose, and had sent an autographed and framed print of his famous Johnny Cash photograph. Among the many gifts bestowed on Junior through the Bud years, that one remains one of the most memorable.