Early Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King, the creator the iconic riff to 1973’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” died in Nashville at age 68 on Wednesday (August 22nd). Rolling Stone reported that King, who was a California native and not a Southerner like the rest of the band, was a founding member of the psychedelic ’60s group Strawberry Alarm Clock, who remain best remembered for their 1967 chart-topper “Incense And Peppermints.” King, whose temperament did not compliment frontman and leader Ronnie Van Zant, was featured on Skynyrd’s first three albums — 1973’s (Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd); 1974’s Second Helping; and 1975’s Nuthin’ Fancy.
Among the classics King contrived to are “Gimme Three Steps,” “Simple Man,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Free Bird,” “Don’t Ask Me No Questions,” “Workin’ For MCA,” “The Ballad Of Curtis Loew,” “Call Me The Breeze,” and “Saturday Night Special,” among others. King left the band in 1975 and was replaced by the late-Steve Gaines. King was among the members of the band who performed on the 1987 Skynyrd reunion tour, but was forced to quit the band again 1996 due to congestive heart failure. In 2006, Ed King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Soul surviving original Skynyrd member Gary Rossington said in a statement: “I’ve just found out about Ed’s passing and I’m shocked and saddened. 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.”
Ed King recently summed up the importance of “Sweet Home Alabama”: “The Allman Brothers had ‘Ramblin’ Man’ as their big hit and that was our ‘Ramblin’ Man.’ We just knew it was a hit record, y’know? It’s funny, MCA didn’t release that first; they didn’t, I guess, hear it as a hit. They released ‘Don’t Ask Me No Questions’ off the Second Helping album first, and of course ‘Alabama’ was the clear, cut hit of that record. ‘Alabama’ was an exception because here, you had Gary, who just had this riff when I walked in — and then if it wasn’t for that riff, I wouldn’t have bounced of my (sings) riff, okay? And then Ronnie put the lyrics on top of that. But basically after I heard Gary’s riff I wrote the rest of it and just rolled with it.”