San Francisco photographer Jim Marshall, who snapped this iconic shot of Johnny Cash, has fired off the legal equivalent of the Man In Black's one-finger salute to the owner of Bill Graham Archives.
After a man's shot his thousandth musician, you'd figure he'd see some time in court. That's the case for Jim Marshall -- but he's the plaintiff. The veteran San Francisco music photographer last week filed suit in the city's federal court against Wolfgang's Press, the owner of the Bill Graham Archives. Reached at his office at 16th and Market, Marshall broke the lawsuit down into terms so simple even Keith Richards on his 14th beer could get it: They've got my stuff and I want it back.
Marshall told SF Weekly that Wolfgang's Press won't relinquish more than 600 of his classic shots of the Beatles, Stones, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Hendrix, and others even though the archive's agreement to possess and sell the photos expired in May of last year. What's more, Marshall accuses the archive of knowingly selling his shots after the agreement lapsed; he says at least one shot of Thelonious Monk was moved for $2,000 and he claims Wolfgang's Press is still offering Marshall shots of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Janis Joplin to just name a few. You can view the lawsuit here.
Calls to Wolfgang's Press were returned by marketing director Gabby Medecki, who, speaking for owner Bill Sagan, refused to comment on the case. Marshall, however, is frustrated and doesn't care who knows.
He grumbles about the archives' "fucking lawyers playing games" and accuses them of "nitpicking" and "asking chickenshit questions."
"The thing is, this lawsuit is so damn unnecessary. It's my property and I want it back. That's it," said the photographer, who is flummoxed as to why this disagreement found its way to federal court. "I never had a problem with them before. They always paid on time every month."
The time for niceties has long since passed, however. Now Marshall is taking the advice of Queen, one of the many bands that may have cavorted in front of his lens through the years:
"I want it all/I want it all/I want it all/And I want it now."