The Lyle Tuttle body shirt...

The Lyle Tuttle body shirt...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Chicken Today…
RIP Lyle Tuttle
9/7/1931 to 3/25/2019

I found out this morning that my old friend, Lyle Tuttle passed away two days ago in Ukiah, California. When I use the term ‘Old Friend’ I do not mean to imply that Lyle and I had been constantly hanging out together over the years. That would be untrue. We had been friends back in the 60’s when I got my first tattoo from him and even though we rarely saw each other after the 70’s, nothing ever happened in my orbit that would prevent me from calling him friend.

Lyle’s passing truly marked the passing of an era for me. Back when I got my first ink, that little event was like taking a walk on the wild side. The whole tattoo thing was still outré back then and it marked all of us with ink as outsiders. Over the years I have been tattooed by a number of artists who by their work have become historical. Lyle broke my cherry with a little Mayan stamp on my back. Pat Martynuik gave me some classic roses on my right arm. Lyle would follow with a Mayan eagle on my left arm which Don Ed Hardy would surround with a serpent. Bob Roberts would crest my Roses with a horned demon. Don Ed would give me a 47 hour back piece and five or six years later Doc Slick would put a rose on the back of my right hand. D. Willy would do a tribal piece on my left arm that spills over to my chest and Bridget Punsalang would give me a skull on my right forearm two years ago at Lyle Tuttle’s Old School Tattoo Convention in St. Louis.

For me it all started with Lyle. He was a larger than life character. Some folks liked him, some didn’t… but he could not be ignored. It would be hard to deny that he was a major force in bringing tattooing in the mainstream… and that is a good thing.

The planet is a little poorer for Lyle’s passing. He was a helluva guy. I am already missing him profoundly because one of my bucket list items will now go undone. I had planned to visit him, and now this will have to wait… for a long time, I hope!

Lyle had a motto of sorts on his chest. Gallina Hodie, Plumae Cras. Chicken today, feathers tomorrow. I can really take that to heart today. If something needs to be done, today is probably a good day to do it. Thanks Lyle.

I fondly remember Lyle’s Bull Terrier, Chadwick. Chadwick was the first Bully I ever met and as a result of that meeting, in later years there would a number of Bullies in my life.

Chadwick and Lyle back in the late 60's

Chadwick and Lyle back in the late 60's

Archival Foto

With all these thoughts running through my head today I am reminded that I need to tell people I care about that I care about them. The ones I love need to be held close and to be frequently reminded that they are dwelling in my heart.

Rest in peace Lyle and know that at least as long as I am walking the earth, a piece of you will walk with me.

Fair wind and following seas brother…


  1. Comment made on April 1, 2019 by Brian Doyle

    It would be cool to get Grace to tattoo my upper back and shoulders…

    Wonder if she’d do it? (lol)…

  2. Comment made on March 29, 2019 by Cyndy

    Dear Jorma,
    Sorry to hear of his passing.
    Your reminiscing reminds me of my first tattoos in ‘76
    from Spider Webb. Not sure if he is still around .
    At that time he was in Mt. Vernon, NY.
    Life sure does move quickly
    RIP, Lyle

  3. Comment made on March 28, 2019 by Joey

    It is so important to know who is important to us, and to tell them about it.
    A lesson well learned.

  4. Comment made on March 28, 2019 by Tom Fabry

    Sorry for your loss of an old friend. May G-D bless the soul of Lyle Tuttle and all who have gone before us.

    Death is Not the End- Bob Dylan

  5. Comment made on March 27, 2019 by Keith Knobler

    Another San Francisco legend has left us. Curious who did your earlobe piece? Not sure if you knew Bill Salmon. He worked for Ed Hardy in the 1980’s before opening Diamond Club Tattoo. Bill passed away in January. As our buddy Howard Danchik often says, “Keep breathing…”

  6. Comment made on March 27, 2019 by mark k

    I still have a signed poster somewhere with your back pose showcasing the great work of Ed Hardy. The gift that keeps on giving. I’m thinking of getting some new work now and there are a plethora of shops and artists throughout North East PA. I’m only 63, skin is still good, its been a long time between work but who knows how much time I have so I might as well do what makes me feel good. Its true however that as the great artists and musicians of our time pass on the universe is poorer for it but fortunately a new breed comes along if we are fortunate enough to find them..

  7. Comment made on March 27, 2019 by Kevin

    Jorma, so sorry for your loss.

  8. Comment made on March 27, 2019 by johno

    We’re all a lot closer to the end than we’d like to admit. I feel there is an afterlife after this life. This is the big dance. You don’t die – you just evolve spiritually. We are all going to live forever. Keep your Lamps.

  9. Comment made on March 27, 2019 by Mitch Spector

    @Pete Raine

  10. Comment made on March 27, 2019 by Pete Raine

    Sorry for your loss, Jorma. You always seem to have the most eloquent turn of phrase when it comes time to send off your lost ones to the next part of the journey. Thoughts go with you…

  11. Comment made on March 27, 2019 by Mitch Spector

    Sorry Jorma ! R.I.P Lyle .

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