ed king

In this photo from his Facebook page, King soundchecks before a 1974 performance in Denver during his first stint in Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The Lynyrd Skynyrd and Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist put his licks on rock history, cowriting hits like “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Saturday Night Special,” and playing on the original recording of “Free Bird.”

Guitarist Ed King, who died on Wednesday, August 23, at age 68, described himself as “out of my mind for quitting” Lynyrd Skynyrd, but added “it was the best thing I ever did.” The California native didn’t always mesh with his brawling, muscle-car-crashing bandmates from the South, and after three studio albums and a grueling road schedule, and—in particular—a rough night onstage in May 1975, when he broke strings and drew the ire of hard-ass frontman and lyricist Ronnie Van Zant for a final time, he gathered up his gear and left, mid-tour.

By then, the Strat- and Gibson-wielding guitarist and songwriter, who died at his Nashville home after a battle with lung cancer, had played a role in assuring Lynyrd Skynyrd’s enduring legacy. He wrote or cowrote and played on the band’s career-making hits, including “Sweet Home Alabama,” which starts with King’s bright, crisp Fender tone ringing out half its two-guitar core riff.

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