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Tattoo Joe Crosson

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The term “living legend” is often over-used, but “Tattoo Joe” Crosson (1935-2023) was a true living legend in Winston Salem and beyond. Tattoo Joe passed away October 9, 2023 here in Winston Salem, NC. This GoFundMe me page was established to help his family pay for his immediate burial expenses and grave stone.

Joe had a cousin who was a fire eater in the carnival and in 1950 he took Joe on the road with him. Joe did odd jobs around the show, though the show boss did not pay much and not very often. The show tattooist split in the middle of the night leaving his gear and the boss, knowing Joe was alway, drawing, offered Joe the tattoo equipment. Joe was a self taught tattooist that got his start tattooing carnival ride boys.

This part of Joe’s career put him at odds with the city fathers in Winston Salem. Remember it was the late 1950s, early 60s. The city’s anti-tattoo laws were but a minor setback for Joe and he would set-up his tattoo van just outside the city limits and tattoo those who were interested. Joe found a novel way to find tattoo customers. He owned a Harley Davidson and he would put a “for sale” advertisement in the local paper for that Harley, knowing that the people who responded would more likely want a tattoo. The motorcycle was never sold. 

Joe worked the carnival circuit for many years with his traveling snake show that was housed in a trailer he built to look like a boat. During the off season, the boat trailer would be parked at his sister’s house and became a local attraction.

Joe was so much more that a tattooist, human pin cushion, fire eater, human block head, or snake handler. He could often be seen on the streets of Winston Salem playing his mandolin and his chromatic harp with his hairless dog by his side. In the later years he would take this busker act to local old folks homes and entertain the residents. He was proud of these gigs, often showing us his appointment book with all his scheduled shows. 

If you have a tattoo from Joe, you are part of an exclusive group here in Winston Salem.  

Joe is survived by his niece Joyce Lookabill Branch who cared for him throughout his life and his many, many friends.
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Donations 

  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 7 mos
  • Anonymous
    • $200 
    • 7 mos
  • Maytee Gomez
    • $50 
    • 7 mos
  • Jennifer Spencer
    • $60 
    • 7 mos
  • Jennifer Spencer
    • $40 
    • 7 mos
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Organizer

John Brehm
Organizer
Kernersville, NC

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