“There’s a lot of people out there that are great tattoo artists but they got an attitude so I wouldn’t wanna necessarily get a tattoo from them. If somebody’s nice, you know, that makes a world a difference. And I think the sentimentality is equal with artistry. The imperfections are what make things human.” – BIll Salmon
A native of Troy, N.Y., Salmon came to San Francisco in his 20s, worked in a music store, learned his future craft from a handful of local masters and opened his private tattoo studio, the Diamond Club, in 1991. The studio opened to the general public in 2004 at Broadway and Van Ness Avenue.
Its motto was “Folk Art Tattoos by Tattooed Folks,” which is what Salmon was. A giant wild feline covered his chest. Images of flowers and wildlife filled both arms. A few patches of bare skin remained, but not many.
“There’s folks out there who are great tattoo artists but I wouldn’t want to get a tattoo from them,” he said. “If someone’s nice, that makes a world of difference.”
Salmon was nice, said everyone who knew him. He took days where other tattoo artists took hours, and he consulted exhaustively with a client before picking up the tattoo needle.
“Think about it and come back,” he would tell a prospective customer who could not decide among a flower, a cupid and an homage to Mother. “I’ll be right here when you make up your mind. I’m not going anywhere.”
He specialized in flora and fauna, he never met a flower he didn’t like — peonies, roses and chrysanthemums especially. He tattooed puns, too. Once he tattooed a whimsical bag of peanuts onto the arm of a client who was in mourning for his cat, named Peanuts.
Salmon was also an accomplished musician, and he enjoyed playing the saxophone, flute and guitar.
The tattoo community mourned the loss of Salmon and his now-silent tattoo needle.
EXCERPT FROM SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE