Lyle Tuttle, Pioneering Tattoo Artist, Dead At 87

Lyle Tuttle, the tattoo artist and historian whose clients included Janis Joplin and Joan Baez, passed away yesterday at the age of 87.

Lyle Tuttle, Pioneering Tattoo Artist, Dead At 87

Lyle Tuttle, one of the pioneers of modern tattooing, passed away yesterday. He was 87 years old.

Born in Iowa and raised in California, Lyle got his first tattoo for $3.50 at age 14. He began tattooing in 1949, and opened up his first shop in San Francisco, where he soon became known as a local fixture and a necessary stop for artists in the Bay Area. Among his most famous clients were Cher, the Allman Brothers, Joan Baez, and most famously Janis Joplin, who sported Lyle's designs on her wrist and left breast.

Above: Lyle's famous business card

Lyle was also an early supporter of tattooing's normalization, and famously once said, "Tattoos aren't meant for everybody, and they're too goddamn good for some people."

When asked what helped tattooing gain popularity, Tuttle famously said, "Women's liberation! One hundred percent women's liberation! That put tattooing back on the map. With women getting a new found freedom, they could get tattooed if they so desired. It increased and opened the market by 50% of the population -- half of the human race! For three years, I tattooed almost nothing but women. Most women got tattooed for the entertainment value...circus side show attractions and so forth. Self-made freaks, that sort of stuff. The women made tattooing a softer and kinder art form."

Lyle later became an historian for the art, and taught classes about building, cleaning, and maintaining tattoo machines. If you've gotten a tattoo in a clean, respectably-maintained shop over the past ten years, you have Lyle Tuttle to thank for it.

Yesterday, the Instagram for the Lyle Tuttle Collection posted the photo featured beneath, with the caption, "We are heartbroken to communicate that our beloved friend Lyle passed away peacefully last night. Lyle inspired so many of us with his joy for living, his boundless creativity, humor, and unconditional friendship. He will always be our favorite tattooed prince. He lifted us with the magic in his soul and his bright spirit across oceans, time and space. A service to honor and celebrate Lyle will be held this Saturday at 2pm at Eversol Funeral Home in Ukiah. Come one come all- let’s make this a gathering as wonderful and special as Lyle has made us all feel. He loved us all...Please respectfully do not call the Ukiah house at this difficult time. More details to follow."

Lyle's specific cause of death has not yet been revealed. More information about his funeral service can be found here.

Everyone at Kerrang! sends their hearts out to Lyle's family, friends, fans, and loved ones during this difficult time. In his honor, go get a tattoo today.

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