Legendary Guitarist Ed King Dies At 68
Ed King / Facebook
Former Guitarist Ed King Dies At 68
Ed King, whose rich guitar and bass playing famously powered Lynyrd Skynyrd and psychedelic rock outfit Strawberry Alarm Clock, has died at the age of 68. A family member confirmed his passing this morning via King’s personal Facebook account but did not disclose the cause, though they did reveal that he died at home in Nashville, Tennessee yesterday.
Born Edward C. King in 1949, the Glendale, California native made an indelible mark on the music world with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Southern rock anthem for the ages “Sweet Home Alabama”. The first song he recorded on guitar after transitioning from bass to guitar, Ed says that the chords and solo to “Sweet Home Alabama” came to him in a dream one night, vexing producer Al Kooper who swore that he’d recorded the song in the wrong key and demanded he change it.
“I always sleep with a guitar next to the bed. There are two solos in that song. Both of them came to me note-for-note in a dream,” Ed would recall years later. “It’s one of those Southern mystical things you can’t change”.
But Ed King’s musical legacy didn’t begin there anymore than it ended there.
His road into legend began several years earlier with San Francisco psychedelic outfit Strawberry Alarm Clock, whose 1967 release of “Incense and Peppermints” gave the band their largest success. Co-written by King and Strawberry Alarm Clock keyboardist Mark Weitz (both of whom did not receive credit for their contributions), “Incense and Peppermints” shot to the top of the charts in October 1967, reaching the coveted #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
It was this success that found King crossing paths with Lynyrd Skynyrd in early 1968 when they opened up for Strawberry Alarm Clock on a few dates, striking up a relationship with the band that would result in Ed joining Lynyrd Skynyrd four years later when bassist Leon Wilkeson following his brief exit.
From there, it was off to the races. Ed subbed for Wilkeson during the recording of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1973 debut album Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, and upon Wilkeson’s return to the band shortly before the album was finished switched to guitar where with guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins crafted what would become Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature three guitar attack.
His songwriting and gifts as a guitarist made King an “essential element” to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first three albums (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, Second Helping, Nuthin’ Fancy), and more than 40 years later fans still rave about his expert work on classics like “Poison Whiskey,” “Saturday Night Special,” “Mr. Banker,” “Swamp Music,” “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller,” “Railroad Song,” “I Need You” and “Workin’ For MCA.”
When Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited in 1987 following the tragic crash that claimed the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Cassie Gaines, road manager Dean Kilpatrick and King’s own replacement Steve Gaines, Ed King was tapped to participate in the reunion and ultimately remained with the band until congestive heart failure forced him out of the band in 1996.
A decade after leaving Lynyrd Skynyrd for the second time, Ed King’s journey through rock and roll came full circle when he and all pre-crash members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – a moment several years in the making, and one that allowed fans and friends to celebrate the road that took Jacksonville’s finest through triumph, tragedy, and an award winning rise from the ashes as rock and roll’s greatest phoenix.
In addition to a glowing musical legacy, Ed King is survived by an adoring family, friends too numerous to name, and a legion of fans who will miss him endlessly. Thanks for everything, Ed – say hello to the gang for us.