Frank “Captain” Morgan, sitting at Align Tattoo in Lewiston, is celebrating 40 years of tattooing in Maine on Monday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Frank “Captain” Morgan’s oldest customers ever: 84- and 83-year-old sisters visiting from Amsterdam.

Frank “Captain” Morgan sports a tattoo on the top of his head, which he said hurt but was completed in an afternoon. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

His weirdest request: Too weird to print. (It involved a pair of blue eyes. We’ll say no more.)

The 61-year-old’s latest milestone: Tattooing in Maine for 40 years, come Monday. He’s worked from half a dozen locations, battled cancer, closed his shop and he’s not dead yet, despite rumors.

On Friday, he had several customers on the books, including a mom whose daughter had finally talked her into sitting in his chair.

“I’ve always had my own business, my own shop, my own legacy, and I just needed to change things up a little bit,” said Morgan, sitting at Align Tattoo on Libson Street, a “No Whining” sign by his station and a large “892” across the top of his left hand in honor of his new address.

“Somebody called me, they were over at Gipper’s and people were saying over there, ‘Oh, he closed because he died,'” Morgan said. “So I messaged them back, ‘No, I didn’t die.’ I’m getting better, I’m still maintaining, I’m still here.”

Morgan grew up in Auburn and after graduating from Edward Little, said he felt steered toward welding and fabrication. He liked drawing, building and working with his hands.

“My father was an artist, too, and he was in the Navy, so he had all of the traditional Navy stuff, the hula girls, even had a battleship on his chest,” Morgan said. “I was kind of intrigued by the tattoos.”

He got his first tattoo after turning 18, in Old Orchard Beach, a Harley-Davidson design on his arm.

Soon, Morgan started collecting them on his body, carefully watching different artists at work.

“I’m absorbing,” he said. “But back then, they didn’t have apprenticeship programs like they do now, it wasn’t flooded with tattooing.”

His first tattoo, a small purple heart, was on his now ex-wife while she was pregnant with Frank Morgan III. On friends, he tattooed a tiger and other designs. Word reached OOB and Davey Jones at Davey Jones Tattoos in the early 1980s.

“He came down and hunted me down on a fabrication job,” Morgan said. “I was working at St. Dom’s, they were replacing their wrought iron gates, all the bent bars. He came up to me and he goes, ‘I hear you’ve been doing some really good work, I’ve seen some of your pieces. Want a job?’ I left that job right there on the spot, jumped in his vehicle.”

Frank “Captain” Morgan displays his newest tattoo, “892,” the number of his new address at Align Tattoo on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Jones eventually told Morgan he needed a nautical nickname. Morgan was road captain of a motorcycle club; it didn’t take long to arrive at Captain Morgan.

He was with Jones almost a decade before kicking off a long run of working for himself, first in Livermore Falls then around Lewiston.

After being hospitalized for heart failure in the late 1990s — “I ran myself into the ground between biking and tattooing, the partying and sh**, that killed me” — doctors discovered a fist-sized tumor.

He underwent surgery to remove throat cancer. “I had to take my beard off — I’ve always had a beard,” Morgan said.

He recovered, but had another bout, and more surgery, four years ago. “That’s why my voice is so raspy, I sound like a soprano now,” he joked.

After losing his location at the Marketplace Mall last fall, Morgan said he didn’t have the energy to find a new home for Captain Morgan’s Tattooz, so he reached out to Angela Whiteley at Align.

“She offered me to come over here,” he said. “She was a big help to me.”

He’s inked thousands of tattoos over 40 years and remains at it five days a week. Butterflies. Flowers. Skulls. Wings. Weird clowns.

“I like black and gray a lot because I like the way I get to shade with it,” he said. “But I like to color bomb too.”

He’s also fixed plenty of bad tattoos, often by people who buy a tattoo machine and start inking friends.

“We call them kitchen magicians,” Morgan said. “They screw people up.”

He’ll keep at it, he said, until his fingers and eyes go. Tattooing is just what he’s always done. He’s up to at least 50 on his own body.

Back in the day, customers would come in with books, magazines or drawings. “Now they come in with their phones,” he said.

Back in the day it was also a more narrow clientele, lots of bikers and members of the military.

“Everybody wants to do it now, that’s why these shops are popping up all over the place,” Morgan said. “When you sit with someone three, four, five hours, they talk about all kinds of different things. Lost friends, their lives, girlfriend problems. We just sit there and talk away.”

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