Billy White Jr., Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction Cross Logo Artist, Has Died

The iconic album sleeve was originally conceived as a tattoo design for Axl Rose

billy white jr obituary
Billy White Jr. (via Instagram) and Appetite for Destruction artwork (via Geffen)

    Billy White Jr., the artist who designed the iconic cross logo on the album cover for Guns N’ RosesAppetite for Destruction, has died. Slash broke the sad news on Instagram, paying tribute to the White.

    He wrote, sharing a pic of Billy: “RIP #BillyWhiteJr og designer of GNR cross logo & long time friend of the band. You will be missed.” Commented Duff McKagan on Slash’s post: “Ah shit!”

    As reported by Planet Radio, White was originally tapped to design a tattoo for Axl Rose, who had conceived the idea of the cross with skulls of each band member. White was an art student at Long Beach University at the time and crossed paths with GN’R through his cousin in 1986.


    “One day Axl called and asked if i could draw him a tattoo, after he’d seen a drawing I’d done on my cousin’s wall,” White told the now defunct Culture Creature website in a 2016 interview. “The cross and skulls that looked like the band was Axl’s idea, the rest was me — the knot work in the cross was a reference to Thin Lizzy, a band Axl and I both loved.”

    White’s original pencil sketch was eventually fleshed out into a full-color design on Bristol paper using watercolor, gauche, and ink. A separate artist, Andy Engel, made refinements to the design, which was then placed on the inner sleeve of the original pressings of Appetite for Destruction.

    Famously, the original Appetite LP cover featured Robert Williams’ controversial painting of a robot who has just committed violent act of sexual abuse — a sleeve that resulted in the album being banned from certain retailers.


    Geffen quickly made the swap, placing White’s cross design on the cover and sticking the Williams art on the inner sleeve. While the original banned pressings may be collectible, White’s ubiquitous cross design would become one of the most iconic album covers of all-time and arguably the definitive Guns N’ Roses iconography.

    Below you can see Slash’s tribute post. Our condolences to White’s family and the Guns N’ Roses camp at this time.

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