FATHER, SON STORYTELLERS: Junebug Clark recalls Lynchburg days with his dad, Joe Clark HBSS

Joe and Junebug Clark sit in front of the cave spring at the Jack Daniel Distillery in 1987. Joe shot black and white photos for Jack Daniel’s ads beginning in 1954 and Junebug started contributing in 1961. The duo were a near constant presence in Lynchburg during that time. (Photo Credit: Dan Moore)

By Tabitha Evans Moore | Editor & Publisher

They were simple ads by today’s standards – unedited black and white photographs, a single paragraph of copy, and small Jack Daniel’s art in the right corner. For over 35 years, the Postcards from Lynchburg series graced the pages of major publications from The New York Times to Time magazine and many of those images were captured by the Hillbilly Snap Shooter (HBSS) Joe Clark and his son, Junebug Clark.

The Times recently caught up with Junebug to recall his father’s legacy and their time spent together in Lynchburg.

Just a homesick hillbilly

Joe got his big break in photography while living in Detroit in the 1930s.

“He was just a homesick hillbilly working as a night watchman at a department store,” Junebug says. “The department store’s advertising photographers worked at night when the store was empty. Dad would watch them and sometimes share stories about his Tennessee mountain home. One day, as he was about to leave on vacation, one of them gifted my father a camera and three rolls of film.”

Junebug says the advertising photographer asked Joe to use the camera and film to capture some images from back home. So, Joe took the camera back with him to Tennessee and taught himself how to shoot using the instructions printed on the box of film. He returned to Claiborne County and captured a series of folksy images of a mountain funeral that would end up launching his career.

“When dad returned to the department store, a photo editor from Life Magazine was there trying to recruit the advertising photographers to become stringers. They introduced him right away as ‘our Hillbilly Snap Shooter’ and mentioned the funeral shots,” Junebug says.

The idea of a mountain funeral in the Appalachian hills of Tennessee shot in the rain piqued the Life Magazine photo editor’s interest. Junebug says Life wrote Joe four separate times asking him to send the images.

“One day he showed up for work at his night watchman job and his boss called my father into his office and handed him the phone. It was the photo editor calling from New York. He was so flabbergasted. It was the first long distance phone call he’d ever received.”

Junebug says Joe sent the images the next day and Life Magazine printed 14 of the 36 photographs – launching a fifty year career.

From Detroit to Postcards from Lynchburg

Beginning in 1956 and for the next 35 years, Joe Clark became a familiar face at the distillery, around the historic Lynchburg Square, and throughout the rolling hills of Moore County as he captured images for the now famous Jack Daniel’s Postcards from Lynchburg advertising series. When he turned 13 years old, Junebug joined him in Lynchburg and contributed multiple images for the campaign. In fact, one of the first images Junebug ever shot in Lynchburg made it into a Jack Daniel’s ad.

According to Junebug, he and his dad made the 500 miles trip from Detroit to Lynchburg 78 times – shooting an average of 100 rolls of film at each visit. This means over the life of the campaign the duo captured nearly 300,000 images of the Jack Daniel Distillery and Lynchburg.

One particular memory from that time revolves around a minor injury Joe received while shooting inside the cave spring.

“Roger Brashears took him into town and he got two small stitches,” Junebug remembers. “I stayed onsite and kept photographing. When I finished, I walked in town to meet some folks at The Coffee Cup for lunch and as I walked to the square, folks stopped me on the street to ask about my dad. Lynchburg really is a telephone, telegraph, tell-a-person kind of town.”

Junebug says that memories about his dad and memories about Lynchburg intertwine in his mind.

“We knew more people from tiny Lynchburg than we did in all of Detroit,” Junebug says. “It’s just such a special place filled with interesting characters. It’s this big company in the middle of nowhere that felt like a small company during my time there.”

Joe Clark died in 1989 and serendipitously a Postcards from Lynchburg ad featuring Joe appeared in the pages of Life Magazine, where it all began, that very same week.

“My dad’s first pictures ended up in Life Magazine the week that he passed away in 1989. There was a full-page Jack Daniel’s ad in that same magazine of my dad introducing the Wyooter story. That wasn’t planned. That ad buy would have been made months before,” Junebug says.

When we ask what Junebug remembers most about his father, he’s quick to answer.

“So many wonderful things,” he says. “He was so easy to get along with and everybody admired him.”

He also says that his dad taught him everything he knows about photography starting at around the age of three when his parents gifted him his first camera. Junebug says his dad showed him the different setting for inside shooting and outside shooting and stood in a mirror showing him how to hold the camera.

“I was just a freaky little kid I guess because I just loved taking pictures,” Junebug says. “It was also neat because it gave me a chance to spend time with my folks. Both my parents were photographers. It’s what we’ve all done our whole lives. If it ever went away, I’m not sure what else I could do.”

In an effort to preserve Joe’s legacy, Junebug, with the help of Jack Daniel’s first Director of Marketing Art Hancock, donated thousands of images to the University of North Texas Digital Library. Those images represent a stunning example of visual storytelling from the golden age of American photography and capture moments in American history from the Great Depression to the emergence of Detroit as the auto capital of the world. Nearly 70 of those images also powered an expansion in Lynchburg that took the distillery from a family-owned brand to a multi-billion-dollar corporation that boasts the number one selling whiskey in the world. You can view that collection by clicking here.

Joe Clark (far right) photographs a group of Jack Daniel’s retirees while his son, Junebug, photographs him. The group includes Clarence Rollman, Herb Fanning, Irv Crutcher, and Lem Tolley at Jack Daniel’s historic office located near the cave Spring. (Historic Photo Provided by Junebug Clark)

There’s also still time to see the Joe & Junebug Clark Photography Exhibition at the Paul V. Hamilton Center for the Arts in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee through June 25. The exhibit will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The Center closes every Sunday. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only locally-owned newspaper in Lynchburg and also the only woman-owned newspaper in Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}