It was in a tarpaper shack (literally) in New Scotia that the man, the drifter, the jack-of-all-trades master-of-fun, George Michael Brown III was born. Poor and too proud to remain in the sparsely settled backwoods of Antigonish, his mother Mirjana, an immigrant from Germany, insisted on what would be an ill-fated trek to York Region in the year of 1974.
The journey produced a healthy baby brother, Johnny Nicholas, but George Brown Sr. was lost to the wilderness on a search for demon-whiskey somewhere around the now thriving city of Toronto.
For years, the family drifted around southern Ontario until they settled in County Niagara, where young George began to show promise not only as a polyglot and orator, a scholar and an instrumentalist, but also as an enthusiast and budding designer of the visual arts.
Working various jobs to help support the family, as well as his two children, George found himself dabbling in carpentry, apothecary work, stocking groceries, journalism and bartending. The tremendous and exhilarating nightlife and saloons, joints and dancehalls of the otherwise sleepy canal ports of Thorold and St. Catharines were appealing, and he made his way as an amateur musician from time to time, but the idea of becoming an apprentice in the bewildering art of tattoo had always nagged at him.
While he commenced studies in English literature at Sir Isaac Brock’s Academy of Learning and Dollar Store (which he would eventually complete at the Academy of York) and ran a local dancehall and bawdyhouse, he took up an apprenticeship at the Belmont Tattoo Lounge. In a short time, he began to long for his supplanted home of York, and he followed his wife, Leslie, to the city of Toronto, where she had established them. He was quick to take the opportunity for employment at a ubiquitous yet mysterious tattoo shop.
For seven years George Michael brown III plied his trade, learned from the practitioners of the art around him, became an erudite member of the tattoo community, basked in its rich history, was edified in the perplexing machinations of the oscillating perforation machines, and drank. It was during this time that he met an artist with like sensibilities and equally powerful compulsions toward drink and song.
He wore his hat at a rakish angle, the gentleman Matthew Ellis, and George thought for sure this man must be part tracker-scout and part Cornish heathen. He was, of course, wrong on both accounts, but the fervor that the men shared for the art of electric tattooing and art in general led to a partnership, what is now known as “The Society of Seven Crowns”.