The Scintillating Tale of Axl Rose’s First Wife – Erin Everly

Some of the most jaw-dropping entertainment stories date back to the height of rock and roll. Outside of the fast-paced music, the artists themselves led such lives that you could only marvel at. Even today, certain stories are unforgettable- forever etched in history and our minds.

Erin Everly / Erin Everly and Axl Rose / Axl Rose / Axl Rose and Stephanie Seymour
Photo by Getty Images

For any Guns N’ Roses fan, the song ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was a sudden switch from the rock and roll songs. You might not know that Axl Rose wrote the song, initially a poem, for a woman. This is the incredible story of that woman, Erin Everly.

A Window into Erin Everly’s Early Life

Born Erin Invicta Everly on November 8, 1965, in Los Angeles, California, to singer Don Everly of the Everly Brothers and his wife, actress Venetia Stevenson. Don Everly was one half of the 1950’s rock ‘n roll sensation that was the Everly Brothers, his brother Phil was the other half.

The Everly Brothers, Phil, and Don Everly.
Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images

The Everly Brothers dominated the charts with tracks like “Bye Bye Love,” “Cathy’s Clown,” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Erin’s parents later divorced in 1970 after the birth of their daughter Stacy and son Edan mainly because of Don Everly’s drug addiction problems which led to his hospitalization.

The Struggle Called Growing Up

After the divorce, Don Everly, pleading poverty, didn’t pay for Erin’s child support. This resulted in Erin and her siblings growing up in less-than-luxurious circumstances. Venetia Stevenson, Erin’s mum, worked as a clothing designer. This brought in some money, but not sufficient enough to maintain the exclusive lifestyle previously afforded.

Young Erin Everly.
Source: Tumblr

In 1974, Venetia relocated the family from an upscale Studio City neighborhood to a more affordable rented home in Los Angeles. It didn’t end there from The Buckley Private school for the upper class; Erin and her siblings transferred to public schools. This marked a remarkable lifestyle change.

Battling Disability as a Child

Steve Dougherty of People magazine, in a July 1994 write-up, noted that Erin was a slow learner who had Dyslexia. She loved staying indoors and playing with her dolls and baby brother. Studying was a difficult task, but she pushed through and even completed her high school education.

Erin Everly leaning on a tree.
Source: Tumblr

As she got older, she became a firm source of emotional support to her mother. In her words, “I always felt like I had to look after her… I’m a caretaker.” Erin’s mum quit her acting and modeling career right after she got married to Don Everly.

Carrying on the Family Legacy

Coming from a family with a long history in show business as the Everly family, it wasn’t surprising when Erin continued this trend, venturing into the modeling scene when she was only 16. She moved to New York, the city that never sleeps, in 1982 to pursue a career in modeling.

Erin Everly in a commercial for Jordache.
Source: YouTube

Erin appeared in commercials and ads at the beginning of her career. She moved higher up the ladder, promoting for brands like Guess, Babe, and Jordache. In 1992, she signed with Wilhelmina Models Agency and worked there for a while. All through her career, she appeared in various music videos.

The Meeting that Sparked all of it

Erin and Axl Rose first met in 1986 at a party in Los Angeles. Erin was 19 years old at that time, and her modeling career in New York City was only just beginning to take off. Axl, 24 at the time, had not attained fame and was still a struggling rock musician.

Erin Everly hugging Axl Rose.
Source: Pinterest

The attraction was instant, and the relationship set sail almost immediately. Erin relocated to L.A. to be with Axel, and on July 21 the following year, Guns N’ Roses released their debut studio album, ‘Appetite for Destruction.’ This thrust Axl into the limelight and Erin Everly alongside.

The Dream of Happily Ever After

Erin’s relationship with Axl was her first. The whirlwind nature of the relationship swept her off her feet, and it felt like she’d had her dream come true. It was apparent that all she wanted was a simple life, hence the initial attraction to a musician who hadn’t even attained star status.

Erin Everly and Axl Rose.
Source: Pinterest

In an interview with People magazine, she said, “It was the first relationship I had, had—I felt like we were two people who didn’t have much but who had found each other. I was looking for someone who wanted to get married, have a bunch of children, and a station wagon.”

From a Poem to a Love Song

Axl Rose wrote one of the most monumental songs in the Guns N’ Roses’ discography, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ after Erin. He initially penned it as a poem before turning it into a track, one that would be the band’s only track to reach number one on the US Billboard Charts Hot 100.

Axl Rose leaning over Erin Everly’s shoulder as she looks at a piece of paper.
Source: Pinterest

Beyond the track’s huge success, it was an everlasting representation of his commitment to Erin Everly. She appealed to his romantic side so much that Axl paused the rock and roll lifestyle for a brief moment and transformed into a romantic lover.

Embarking on a Quest for Proper Inspiration

‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was the third single on the band’s debut album ‘Appetite for Destruction’. To get the sound perfectly, Axl tapped some inspiration from Lynyrd Skynyrd. In his words, “And yet for Sweet Child… I went out and got some old Skynyrd tapes to make sure that we got that heartfelt feeling.”

Guns and Roses pose for a photo in Chicago in 1987.
Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty Images

This comes as no surprise, given that the rock and roll genre is everything that a romantic ballad is not. It goes without saying, of course, that the true source of inspiration would have been Erin’s tugs on Axl’s heartstrings. Therefore, the actual credit forever lies at Erin Everly’s feet.

Putting a Face to the Song

It was only ideal that the face behind the lyrics would appear in the music video. In addition to Erin Everly, the video also featured the current girlfriends of all band members: Slash’s girlfriend Sally McLaughin, Izzy Stradlin’s girlfriend Angela Nicoletti, Duff McKagan’s girlfriend Mandy Brix, and Steven Adler’s girlfriend, Cheryl Swiderski.

A still from Sweet Child O’ Mine’s music video.
Source: YouTube

The black and white music video was widely accepted by viewers watching MTV. This helped the track ascend yet higher in terms of recognition. Subsequently, this widespread acceptance paved the way for the song’s incredible success on mainstream radio.

A Private Love Song, Global Resonance

The song vividly describes Everly’s smile and eyes and details how much she means to Axl, describing her as “sweet love of mine.” The clip beat out Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and Metallica to clinch the MTV Music Video Award for Best Rock Song in 1989.

Axl Rose on stage at a concert.
Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage/Getty Images

It has carved itself a spot on various lists, including Guitar World’s list of the ‘100 Greatest Guitar Solos,’ Rolling Stone’s ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,’ VH1’s ‘100 Greatest Songs of the ‘80s,’ and the RIAA Songs of the Century list. This is indeed no mean feat whatsoever.

A Fresh Bout of Trouble

It’s common knowledge that Erin and Rose had a stormy relationship. So, you’ve probably heard about the one time that Axl Rose and David Bowie got into it, and it was over none other than Erin Everly. We get this from the biography of Slash, Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist’s, self-titled, bestselling memoirs.

David Bowie and Axl Rose.
Source: Pinterest

Bowie stars as the rock lothario in this story, while Rose, the protective and jealous boyfriend, stars as his counterpart. While there are not many sources to confirm from, an eyewitness tells a tale that fits into both men’s nature as we knew them.

Some Background First Perhaps?

David Bowie was no doubt one of the most talked-about men in the rock and roll era. His enigmatic nature on stage had fans clinging on to his every word. He was also well known for his notorious associations with various women. This comes as no surprise as he was quite the sensation.

David Bowie with a beige suit at the Valentine Pop Awards.
Photo by Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Getty Images

He had different-colored eyes, a result of a physical altercation that he had when he was 15. His open Casanova nature and flamboyant style won him the attention of many-a-beautiful women. Beyond wooing willing and single women, he was also known for setting sight and pinching the girlfriends of musical contemporaries.

Trouble Brewing on the Horizon

It was precisely his infamous nature of going after the girlfriends of contemporaries that would get him into trouble in 1989 upon meeting with Rose and then-girlfriend Everly. How was he able to get so close? Well, he had a relationship with another Guns N’ Roses group; Slash himself.

Slash and David Bowie are laughing.
Source: Pinterest

It turns out that Bowie had known Slash, and his mother, Ola Hudson, long before Slash attained stardom. Hudson gets credit for designing some of the costumes and unique stage clothes Bowie used in his performances since they first met in 1975.

The King of Infamy

Maybe Axl had good reason to protect his girlfriend from the wiles of the infamous king of costumes. There is no telling how this story would have turned out outside of this confrontation.

David Bowie poses for a portrait dressed as 'Ziggy Stardust' in a hotel room in 1973.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Slash claims that he once walked in on Bowie and Hudson in the nude. There was no underestimating this music star, especially since his reputation preceded him.

Getting to the Thick of It

By 1989, Guns ‘N’ Roses were stirring up some dust in their wake and were on their way to the big leagues. For their warm-up act for The Rolling stones, they opted for their favorite spot, The Cathouse. Bowie and Ola Hudson attended and sat prominently in the front row.

Axl Rose singing on stage.
Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

During the act, Axl started throwing some nasty jibes and covert insults in Bowie’s direction. He postured and sneered at the singer with his typical cocksure swagger. At some point, Bowie got sick of the actions of the Guns ‘N’ Roses frontman and left mid-way through the act.

Is There More Than Meets the Eye?

Ola Hudson was as confused as can be by the entire action unraveling. No doubt other people who were in the dark were confounded as well. However, after Slash revealed the entire story, Ola wasn’t too confounded anymore.

Axl Rose talking on stage.
Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

Axl was miffed at Bowie for allegedly hitting on Erin Everly, his girlfriend. The aggrieved party couldn’t stand that Bowie had tried to ‘land’ his girl, fully knowing that they were together.

When did any of this Happen?

Before the gig that fateful night, the band was recording the video for their track, ‘It’s So Easy’ when Bowie arrived at The Cathouse drunk and looking to brew some mischief, as was in his nature. Erin Everly was set to appear in the video, wearing leather bondage gear, a ball-gag in her mouth, and handcuffs.

Guns n Roses in their recording studio.
Source: Pinterest

This was quite a sight for Bowie, and apparently, he decided that Erin was a worthy conquest to pursue. The owner of Cathouse claims that when Axl saw that Bowie was pursuing Everly, it drove him to the point of rage. He couldn’t stand the sight of Bowie hitting on his girl.

A Hail of Fists

Axl and Bowie got into a fistfight, with punches flying all around the place. Bowie then thought it wise to retreat, and a chasing Axl yelled the words that any aggrieved boyfriend might; “I’m gonna kill you, TIN MAN.” Later that same day, Axl got further confirmation that he took the right stance.

Axl Rose and Mick Jagger backstage at a concert.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

He bumped into Mick Jagger, another frontman waiting for the gig but was simply hanging around the shoot. He’d been a victim of Bowie’s charming nature in the past and, alongside Eric Clapton, was interested in if Rose got any punches in.

Rose and Bowie Bury the Hatchet

After their initial clash, Rose and Bowie did make up. Since they moved in similar circles, there is no telling what would have happened if they didn’t agree to forget the skirmish and bury the hatchet.

Axl Rose and David Bowie are smiling at the camera.
Source: Tumblr

Before reaching this agreement, we can only assume that Bowie promised to be hands-off Erin Everly completely. It’s safe to assume that this would have been a non-negotiable clause for Axl. So, Bowie let his girlfriend be and went on to do as he pleased with other women.

The Promise of Forever

About four years after they started dating, Rose and Erin tied the knot on April 28, 1990. They exchanged vows at a wedding ceremony held in Cupid’s Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Talk about a fitting continuation to a relationship that birthed one of the greatest rock love songs of all time.

Axl Rose and Erin Everly are standing close to each other and looking at the camera.
Source: Tumblr

The perfect storyline would have been one where Erin finally got everything she wanted on a platter; The children, the station wagon-driving husband, doting fans, and a pitch-perfect relationship. This is what we all hoped and wished for, and of course, if wishes were horses…

Coming Back to Reality

It turns out that Erin Everly had other motivations outside of love for marrying Rose. By 1990, the couple already started having problems, and Rose had moved out. Erin later claims that he showed up at her house on April 27, 1990, to make a strong move a day before the wedding.

Erin Everly and Axl Rose hugging each other in a photoshoot.
Source: Pinterest

This strong move constituted Axl telling Erin that he would kill himself with a gun in his car if she didn’t marry him. It turns out that a nuptial bond wasn’t the best idea, with Axl allegedly wanting an annulment only 48 hours after the wedding!

The Beginning of the End

It’s safe to say that the marriage started falling apart as soon as it started. One month after the marriage, Rose filed for divorce. However, he didn’t go through with the process, and the couple got back together. During this period, Erin found out that she was pregnant.

Erin Everly and Axl Ros are holding hands.
Source: Pinterest

Sadly, she suffered a miscarriage in October 1990, only six months after the couple’s wedding. This led to a major breakdown in the couple’s relationship, mainly because Axl always wanted to have a family. Post-miscarriage, Axl abandoned Erin and left her to cater to the medical bills on her own.

Spiraling All the Way Downhill

Before her pregnancy, Axl allegedly beat Erin up so badly that she was hospitalized. Afterward, to show good faith and to show he was sorry, he moved Everly back into his home. Erin described Rose as a maniac who abused her physically, sexually, and emotionally.

Axl Rose in his younger years.
Photo by KMazur/WireImage/Getty Images

In a bid to monitor her, he allegedly had all the doors of his home removed. All of this, in addition to the treatment she got through pregnancy and miscarriage, pushed Erin to her limits. In January 1991, nine months after the couple tied the knot, they annulled their marriage.

A Hope for Reconciliation

When talking about their relationship, Axl Rose said, “Erin and I treated each other like crap… Sometimes we treated each other great because the children in us were best friends. But then there were times when we just messed up each other’s lives completely.

Axl Rose in a photoshoot.
Source: Pinterest

It’s no wonder that he tried to win her back even after the wedding was annulled. Rose allegedly attempted to reconcile for over a year- sending cards, flowers, and even caged birds to Erin by 1991. His efforts yielded no results, and both parties moved on.

The Post-Erin Life for Axl Rose

The same year, 1991, where Rose attempted to win Everly back, he delved into yet another relationship, this one with supermodel Stephanie Seymour. This was short-lived. They got engaged in 1993 but broke it off soon after. Seymour left Rose without notice and got married to multi-millionaire and businessman Peter Brandt.

Axl Rose and Stephanie Seymour are standing next to each other.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

He dated a long list of other women, including Caron Bernstein, Jennifer Driver, Dyan O’Connor, and Denniz Akkaya. Erin Everly and Axl Rose never reconciled after the annulment. Even if it didn’t turn out to be an enchanting love story, we still have the great song ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ to remind us of their better times.

Living Through Post-Axl Times

It turns out that Erin was heavily reliant on Axl financially through the course of their relationship. After the annulment of their marriage, Erin Everly wasn’t financially buoyant and was supported by friends and family. Just like that phase of her childhood after her parent’s divorce, she had to live modestly for a period.

Axl Rose on stage during the Guns N' Roses 'Not In This Lifetime' Tour in 2017.
Source: Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

In an interview, she once stated that she got so low on funds that she had to sell her wedding ring to make ends meet. This was no longer the once-glamorous model who’d made commercial ads for top brands appeared in a couple of music videos such as Guns N’ Roses’ ‘It’s so easy,’ and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine.’

It’s Raining Lawsuits

After Rose and Seymour broke up, Rose sued Seymour on the grounds of assault in August 1993. Seymour slammed him with a countersuit, claiming he attacked her first, and she only grabbed him in self-defense. The case dragged on for a while, and Erin Everly was called to testify. However, he ended up settling out of court.

Axl Rose and Stephanie Seymour at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Photo by Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

This is where things started to get interesting. In 1994, Erin filed a civil suit against Axl Rose. The suit detailed that Rose had physically and emotionally abused her through the course of their relationship. He’d dragged her by the hair, hit her with “foreign objects,” and spit on her.

Trying to let Sleeping Dogs Lie

The lawsuit between Rose and Erin dragged for a while too and even somewhat inspired a song. In early 2001, Axl told Rolling Stone magazine that Oklahoma’s song was inspired by a court date with his ex-wife. He noted that he was sitting in litigation at the time.

Axl Rose showing off his shirt.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

It was the day of a bombing that claimed the life of 168 people, and his wife “didn’t care.” Her sole aim was to destroy him. The multi-million-dollar lawsuit was eventually settled out of court. Rose reportedly paid some undisclosed sum to his ex-wife, which was the last conversation on that subject.

Wading Through the Waters of New Relationships

Erin Everly didn’t give up on finding Mr. Right after her failed marriage with Axl. She dated other celebrities like Matthew Nelson for about a year. She then went on a date with Actor Donovan Leitch and Anthony Kiedis in 1992. In 1993, she dated Actor David Arquette, but this was yet another short-lived relationship.

Matthew Nelson was on stage at a concert in 1992.
Photo by Steve Eichner/WireImage/Getty Images

In 1997, she found love again and married businessman John C. Portman, chairman of Portman Holdings. Afterward, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and had two children, a boy, Easan, and a girl, Eres, with John Portman, in addition to Johanna, John’s daughter from a previous marriage.

Turbulence et Again

Our love story comes to an end yet again. In 2006, after a decade of marriage and two kids together, Erin and David divorced. However, shortly after talking about moving on, there were rumored links between Erin and Mathew Klyn, Atlanta landscape architects. This relationship reportedly birthed her third child, Esper, born in 2009.

Guns N Roses perform at Target Center on November 13, 2011.
Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

In 2010, the police were called in on Erin Everly on charges of domestic violence. She had reportedly attacked Matthew Klyn with a knife. What became of the relationship afterward, we wouldn’t know. However, in 2011, fans noticed that Erin attended a Guns N’ Roses concert when they came to play in Atlanta, Georgia.

Someone Has a Different Take on An Issue

There is no disputing the fact that the couple had a rocky and violent relationship. The peak of this violence is one where Everly was hospitalized after a fight with Rose. Someone has a different version; he claims the hospitalization wasn’t a direct result of Rose’s actions.

Axl Rose backstage at a concert.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

Andy Mccoy, the lead guitarist of Hanoi Rocks, was pretty close to the Guns N’ Roses band. In his book, he claims that while the fight got physical, Erin only landed in the hospital after her OD. The hospitalization was mentioned in her interview with People Magazine, but the resulting story made it seem like it resulted from a physical altercation.

What Does This Tell Us?

The only useful information that we can glean is that perhaps some accounts are incorrect because of faulty perspectives. If this is the case, we can be certain that they are only a few and far between.

Axl Rose is posing for a mug shot in July 1980.
Photo courtesy Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images

We’ve had multiple reports corroborating the same story, these sources authoritative in their own right. And there’s the bottom line, both Erin and Axl moved on a long time ago.

Attaching a Price Tag to One-time Invaluable Mementos

In 2013, Erin Everly auctioned mementos of her brief union with Axl Rose. She sold these artifacts through Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, California, in an auction tagged “Icons and Idols 2013: Rock N’ Roll” on December 6th and 7th.

Jerry Garcia is playing his guitar.
Photo by Don Aters/Icon and Image/Getty Images

The auction also saw a guitar owned by Jerry Garcia up for sale. Several other items, including stars like Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, were also up for sale.

Items Changing Ownership

Some of the mementos that Everly put up for auction include candid photos of Rose- some from his childhood, handwritten song lyrics, letters he wrote to her, some of his clothes, and surprisingly- their marriage certificate.

Axl Rose performed on stage at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992.
Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

A look at these letters provides a view into their occasionally turbulent relationship. A note written from a flower shop had “FROM AN ASSHOLE!!!” scribbled in capital letters. Another letter detailed his complaint where he said that William, his given name, was “too much to bear.” He signed off the letter with the words, “think of me when you wipe yo’ ass.”

Delving Deeper into the Stack

We see a three-part note where Rose assures Erin that he is faithful to her – “you knew what you got involved in from the beginning” – followed by a paragraph that bears some resemblance to song lyrics: “Ya didn’t need ta [sic] play it so tough – I should have known better – I never realized how much you cared and wanted me….”

Axl Rose at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Waldorf Astoria, New York.
Photo by Steve Eichner/Getty Images

“… Sometimes I’m an insensitive [sic] bastard.” Not too long after her birthday, he also wrote her a note that read, “To Erin – Sorry yo’ birthday sucked, love, Axl.” There are even more touching letters in the stack. Although Rose embodied Rock ’n ’Roll, his romantic side wasn’t too far from the fore when it came to Everly.

Getting a Feel of a Rock Star’s Love Language

We see even more heartfelt letters. He starts one with the words, “Sorry for being so hard on you… you didn’t do anything wrong. I just became frustrated with my predicament and didn’t know how to verbalize my feelings.”

Axl Rosing holding up peace fingers.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The message on a paper is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all. He wrote, “No love was there more true Erin I love you Goodbye sweet child – Love Always, – Axl –.”

Cash Value of Words… and More

For the auction, one batch of letters was expected to sell for between $600 and $800. The wedding video, which is also up for sale, was expected to fetch between $2,000 and $3,000, the same goes for the marriage certificate.

A shot of Axl Rose and Slash in Welcome to the Jungle’s music video.
Source: YouTube

The flannel shirt that Axl wore in the “Welcome to the Jungle” video is expected to sell for between $1,000 and $2,000. Other items include a domestic abuse report and love letters and poems penned by the rockstar.

Living Under the Radar

After 1990, Erin Everly did everything she could to stay out of the tabloids and kept her name out of circulation as much as possible.

An old photo of Axl Rose and Erin Everly.
Source: Pinterest

She still leads a private life, and there are only a few pictures of her available to fans who want to see what she looks like these days.

Disappearing from Sight

An intro on her now-defunct website stated: “Since 1990, Erin has remained out of the public eye and is a very proud and fiercely protective parent.” There was also some appreciation to curious followers for “all the letters and inquiries.”

Erin Everly back in the day.
Source: Twitter

It went on to request that “for the sake of her children and loved ones, privacy and desire for a normal provincial life for her children be respected.”