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Ed King, former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ co-writer, dies

This 1975 file photo shows guitarist Ed King of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. A family statement said he died from cancer, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. He was 68. | AP Photo, File

Former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King, who co-wrote ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ one of Southern rock’s iconic anthems, has died. He was 68. According to a post on his Facebook page, Mr. died at his Nashville home on Wednesday. The Associated Press reports the cause of death was cancer.

Mr. Kingplayed guitar for Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1972-75 and 1987-1996. He co-wrote the Southern rock band’s 1974 classic “Sweet Home Alabama,” and that’s his voice counting off the “One, two, three…” before going into the instantly recognizable guitar riff that starts the song.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t “know” the intro lick to ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ said guitarist Andrew Michael Sovine. “If that was all (King) was known for I think that would be worth remembering, but all of his work with Skynyrd was just amazing…as a guitarist I don’t think he ever got the credit he was due. The music he wrote really was the soundtrack of a generation or two.”

“Ronnie [Van Zant] wrote the lyrics and Ed [King] and I wrote the music,” Skynyrd band member Gary Rossington told “Garden and Gun” in 2015 when discussing the story behind “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“Well, when I came to rehearsal that day Gary was playing this riff that you can hear in the verses,” Mr. King told “It’s not the main riff that I play; it’s a part that he plays. And as soon as I picked up the guitar I immediately bounced off his riff. And that’s when Ronnie looked at me and he gave me this whirling sign with his finger, like keep going, keep playing that over and over. And so I mean if it hadn’t been for Gary writing his part, I never would have written my part. And once I heard what Ronnie had, I just wrote the rest of the song in like a half hour, it just came so fast.”

“I’ve just found out about Ed’s passing and I’m shocked and saddened,” said Rossington in a statement on Thursday morning. “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.”

A California native, King was also a founding member of the psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock, known for their 1967 psychedelic chart-topper “Incense and Peppermints.”

In the early 1970s, Skynyrd opened several shows for Strawberry Alarm Clock, and in ’72, King joined the Southern rock outfit as a bass player before switching to guitar.

He’s an integral part of the band’s three-guitar sound and first three albums: 1973’s “Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd,” “Second Helping” (released in 1974) and “Nuthin’ Fancy” (1975), and is credited with co-writing classics like “Saturday Night Special,” “Workin’ for MCA” and “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller”

King stayed with Lynyrd Skynyrd until 1975. He reunited with the band at Charlie Daniels’ 1987 Volunteer Jam and remained with them for nearly a decade until, struggling with congestive heart failure, he retired in 1996.

Funeral arrangements are unknown at this time.

Juli Thanki, USA Today Network