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October 7, 1931
October 7, 1931
Tuttle was born in Chariton, Iowa in 1931 but grew up in Ukiah, California. At the age of fourteen he purchased his first tattoo for $3.50. In 1949, he began tattooing professionally. In 1954 he opened his own studio in San Francisco. This first shop was open for nearly 30 years. Tuttle tattooed Janis Joplin, Cher, Henry Fonda, Paul Stanley, Joan Baez, the Allman Brothers, and many other notable musicians, actors, and celebrities.
He has tattooed on all seven continents, been tattooed on six continents, and has never knowingly tattooed a minor. He has become a legend and a teacher within the industry in the years he has been tattooing. He officially retired in 1990 but will still occasionally tattoo his signature on a friend or acquaintance. His fame within tattooing was somewhat controversial, as many tattooists of his day disliked his statements to the press and "shameless self-promotion". When Tuttle was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in October 1970, Sailor Jerry put the picture inside his toilet.
Tuttle currently teaches seminars in "Tattoo machine maintenance and machine building" at tattoo conventions around the United States.
When asked what made tattooing gain in popularity during his early career, he responded:
"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."
 His first shop when working for Bert Grimm at 16 Cedar Way, Long Beach, CA. on "The Pike". After tattooing in Anchorage and Fairbanks, AK. and Oakland, CA., Lyle opened up shop in 1960 at #30 7th St., in between Mission St. and Market St., also referred to as South of Market, San Francisco, CA. As the story goes, the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Lyle tattooed at #30 7th St., San Francisco, CA. for 29 and a half years, until the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 caused the building to be "yellow tagged". He then moved to 839 and841 Columbus St., San Francisco, CA where he retired from tattooing. The shop is now closed but Tuttle owns the building (both addresses)and is planning to move his tattoo museum to the 841 Columbus Street location.
On January 21, 2014, Tuttle became the first person to tattoo on all 7 continents setting up an impromptu tattoo station in a scientist's guesthouse at the Russian Bellingshausen Station where he tattooed his signature tattoo—his autograph—on project assistant/tattoo historian Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman. A long-standing “bucket list” item of his, this accomplishment fulfilled a personal mission for Mr. Tuttle. He said of the endeavor: “Because I was lucky to have the greatest time slot that any tattoo artist ever had in tattooing, it wound up that I had tattooed on six continents. So I had an opportunity to tattoo on seven continents. Well, I’m not out to break any records but why not do it, it’s there! Edmund Hillary, they asked him why he climbed Mount Everest, and he said ‘because it was there’.”