Ed King, a former member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died at age 68. His family confirmed the guitarist’s passing on Thursday (Aug. 23), writing in a Facebook post, “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 friend and fans for their love and support of Ed during his life and career.” The cause of King’s death was not announced at press time.
King, born in Glendale, California, on Sept. 14, 1949, was a member of the iconic Jacksonville, Florida-bred band from 1972-1975 and again from 1987-1996. He is credited with co-writing the group’s signature anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama” — that’s his voice counting down “one, two, three” at the top of the track — as well as co-writing the music for songs including “Saturday Night Special,” “Mr. Banker” and “Poison Whiskey.” King joined Skynyrd after co-founding the psychedelic group Strawberry Alarm Clock in Los Angeles in 1967 and a co-writer on the band’s best-known song, “Incense and Peppermints.”
He joined Skynyrd in 1972, replacing bassist Leon Wilkeson and played on the group’s first three albums, 1973’s debut, Pronounced ‘L?h-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd, 1974’s Second Helping and 1975’s Nuthin’ Fancy. He moved over to guitar when Wilkeson re-joined the band and then took his first leave in 1976, replaced by Steve Gaines. Singer Ronnie Van Zant, Gaines and sister Cassie Gaines were famously killed in a plane crash in October 1977.
When the band reformed in 1987, King was along for the ride along with guitarist Gary Rossington, drummer Artimus Pyle, keyboardist Billy Powell and bassist Leon Wilkeson, with Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny, as lead singer. King was forced to leave the band in 1996 due to complications from congestive heart failure, for which he underwent a successful heart transplant in 2011. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside the other pre-plane crash members in 2011.
King had been chronicling his health issues on his FB page, writing on July 12, “I had a most excellent day and they’ll keep coming. I’m back to eating, everything is functioning. Getting stronger and feel incredible. I’m just wobbly,” alluding to the “final edit” of the first section of a book he was working on.
His final post, from July 20, featured a morbid joke sent from friend guitarist Beal Cayman.
Listen to “Sweet Home Alabama” below.