Ed King, the former guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died at the age of 68. King was one of the co-writers of “Sweet Home Alabama.” The announcement was made via King’s Facebook page. The message from his family read, “It is with great sorrow we announce the passing of Ed King who died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee on August 22nd, 2018. We thank his many friends and fans for their love and support of Ed during his life and career.”
Co-founder, Gary Rossington, wrote on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Facebook page, “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 Sharon and his family.” King’s death was announced on August 23.
King joined Skynyrd in 1972 but left in 1975. King’s replacement, Steve Gaines, was killed in a 1977 plane crash along with Ronnie Van Zant and Gaines’ sister, Cassie. King rejoined the band in 1987. Coincidentally, King and Gaines shared the same birthday. King left Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996 after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. He would undergo a transplant in 2011. King said in 2005 that during his days on the road with Skynyrd he “never drank, but [he] was into drugs pretty good.” During the same interview, King said that leaving the band, due to a combination of factors, “was the best thing I ever did.” King was also a lead and bass guitarist with Strawberry Alarm Clock.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. King Had Been Battling Cancer for Several Months
News Channel 5 in Nashville, where King lived, reported that the cause of death was cancer. King had battled the disease for several months. King was originally from Glendale, California. The NC5 report says that King had recently been hospitalized.
2. King Has Described Himself as a ‘Hack Who Got Lucky’
According to his Facebook page, King was married to Sharon Brock King. The couple was married in 2010. On his Facebook page, King notes that he retired in 1996. In his About section, King writes, “I was fortunate enough to write the greatest Stratocaster riff ever. Sweet Home ALabama. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee 2006. I’m a fairly decent player but, to be honest, I was in the right place at the right time. I’m a hack who got lucky!! I’m retired & content, thanks.” King adds, “I believe in Jesus with all my heart & soul.”
3. King Said Writing ‘Sweet Home Alabama Wasn’t Very Difficult’
King described how he came up with the famous “Sweet Home Alabama” riff in an interview, King said, “Oh, man, we wrote that song in half an hour, but it took us about a half a day to put it together. 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. There’s not many changes in it. Every verse, there’s like a new wrinkle added to it, but it pretty much stays the same. That wasn’t even work. That was too easy. Anything you wrote with him was pretty easy. If he didn’t latch onto it in the first five or ten minutes, then you’d go on to something else.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd is in the middle of a U.S. tour, the band’s next gig is set for August 24 at the Lakeview Amphitheater in Syracuse, New York. The tour is named, “Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour.” In a 2005 interview with Classic Bands, King said that he began playing guitar in 1961 when he was 12. King says that it was the Beatles who inspired him to become an accomplished guitar player. King added that he was more interested in playing the bass guitar in his youth because it was “far more interesting.” King also said that when he was first asked to join Skynyrd, it was a bassist but he eventually transitioned into a lead guitarist.
4. King Drove ‘Through the Night’ to Be With His Former Bandmates After the 1977 Plane Crash
After the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were involved in a fatal plane crash in October 1977 in Gillsburg, Mississippi, King said that he drove “through the night” to be with his bandmates following the disaster. King told Louder Sound, “I always knew something would happen to them after I left.” In a separate interview, King said about the crash, “I could see something coming, but I didn’t know it was that. I didn’t even know they were flying. When I was in the band, we hated to fly. There was one flight that Ronnie and I took, just the two of us, from Atlanta to Detroit one time. We got off the ground and it’s like the engines cut off or something. The plane floated and you could feel your stomach roll up into your oesophagus… Everybody on the plane gasped. Ronnie and I looked at each other and went “whoa…this might be it!” We kind of agreed, why fly when you can take a bus? He hated to fly… I never talked to anybody about that plane. I never talked to anybody about the crash. I never brought it up.”
5. There Has Been an Outpouring of Emotion on Twitter as News of King’s Death Spread
As news of Ed King’s death spread, there has been an outpouring of emotion on Twitter from King’s fans as well as peers. Here are some of the most poignant messages of support: