Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King dies aged 68

King, who wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s hits, including Sweet Home Alabama and Saturday Night Special, had been battling lung cancer

Ed King, a guitarist for the bands Strawberry Alarm Clock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 68.

“It is with great sorrow we announce the passing of Ed King who died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee on August 22nd, 2018,” read a post on King’s Facebook page. “We thank his many friends and fans for their love and support of Ed during his life and career.” Though a cause of death has not yet been specified, King had lung cancer and was recently in hospital.

King was a founding member of Strawberry Alarm Clock, the acid rock band formed in King’s hometown of Los Angeles. Known for their 1967 hit single Incense and Peppermints, which King wrote with keyboard player Mark Weitz, Strawberry Alarm Clock opened for the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd during a run of shows in Jacksonville in 1968, which introduced King to its members, including the lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant.

However, he wouldn’t join the band until 1972, when he briefly replaced the bassist Leon Wilkeson. Upon Wilkeson’s return to the band, King moved to guitar, cementing the three-guitar sound with which the band became synonymous. King wrote the famous guitar riff in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and played on the band’s first three albums, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, Second Helping, and Nuthin’ Fancy, released in 1974, 1974, and 1975. King wrote or co-wrote Lynyrd Skynyrd hits such as Poison Whiskey, Saturday Night Special, and Swamp Music.

In this March 13, 2006 file photo, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd appear backstage after being inducted at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner in New York.
In a 2006 photo, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd appear backstage after being inducted at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner in New York. Photograph: Stuart Ramson/AP

King’s exit from the band shortly after the release of Nuthin’ Fancy is detailed in the documentary If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd, released this year. In an interview with Gary James, King recounted writing Sweet Home Alabama with Van Zant, who died, along with the band members Steven and Cassie Gaines and the band’s road manager Dean Kilpatrick, in a 1977 plane crash.

“We wrote that song in half an hour, but it took us about a half a day to put it together,” said King. “The song came real quick. I started off with that riff and Ronnie was sitting on the edge of the couch, making this signal to me to just keep rolling it over and over. Finally, after maybe 10–15 minutes, he got up and sang a verse and a chorus. Then, I just put the song together. I knew where to take it. It wasn’t very difficult. Anything you wrote with him was pretty easy. If he didn’t latch on to it in the first five or ten minutes, then you’d go on to something else.”

Ten years after the deaths of Gaines and Van Zant, King joined the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour alongside the surviving original members Gary Rossington, Billy Powell and Wilkeson, plus Artimus Pyle, Johnny Van Zant, and Randall Hall.

In 2006 King, along with the early members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. On Thursday, Rossington released a statement about his former bandmate’s death. “I’ve just found out about Ed’s passing and I’m shocked and saddened,” he wrote. “Ed was our brother, and a great songwriter and guitar player. I know he will be reunited with the rest of the boys in Rock and Roll Heaven. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”


Jake Nevins

The GuardianTramp

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