Baxter's Blog


Posted in History by misterroadtripper on June 23, 2010

Charlie Wagner


World-famous tattoo artist, sword swallower, fire eater and out-and-out champion sideshow performer, the late Capt. Don Leslie was also a gifted songwriter and singer. Here’s the words to one of the Captain’s tunes from his rare, out-of-print recording, “Present Tattoo Songs.”


Words and Music by Captain Don Leslie

I first met her on the Bow’ry at a place called Chatham Square.

It was not her eyes that drew me near, her lips or pretty hair.

It was not her dress of velvet or her patent leather shoes,

But on her hide she wore with pride Charlie Wagner’s tattoos.


Well, red roses she wore on her breast; what a sight!

Oh the color so vivid, so vivid and bright!

And the blues notes danced ’round about her pretty blouse.

Some say it was a waltz, like Johann Strauss.

I swear on my child and the gold in my teeth

That the memory of that tattooed queen still lingers sweet.

Talented Tunesmith, Capt. Don Leslie

Oh, she came down to Charlie there at Chatham Square

To get tattooed by the master there.

Well, I left the Bowery in ’42,

Stopped my gamblin’ and runnin’ hooch,

But I always dreamed of that tattooed queen

And Charlie Wagner’s Fascinating tattoo machines.

Many years have gone by since those World War days,

And Professor Wagner has since passed away.

Oh, they tore down his shop down in Chatham Square.

Time and history and so unfair.


I’ve seen beautiful designs like “Duel in the Sun,”

“Rock of Ages,” battleships and military guns.

Well, they all have their place, like a heart with “Mom,”

But Charlie Wagner’s tattooed lady’s still Number One.

They preachers all say, “There’s a land so fair.”

Some folks call it “heaven” or the “golden stair.”

Well, some call it “paradise,” and I really do not care,

For I’d rather be down in Chatham Square.

And, to the right of the throne, are a chosen few:

Picasso, Rembrandt and Michelangelo too.

Hey, let me name them all for you,

And don’t you forget Professor Wagner too.

Some painted on canvas and some on chapel walls.

Their art’s worth millions for fame and all.

But Charlie Wagner’s the king of this man’s dreams,

For he painted the beautiful tattooed queen.


Charlie Wagner, you’re the greatest and there ain’t no doubt.


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