Ed King, a former guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd who helped give the band its distinctive three-guitar sound and co-wrote hits including “Sweet Home Alabama,” died Aug. 22 at his home in Nashville. He was 68.
The cause was cancer, said Scott Coopwood, a family friend.
Mr. King joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1972 and performed on the Southern rock group’s first three albums. Raised in California, he was a perennial outsider in the group, band biographer Mark Ribowsky once said, “but he was really the guy that made that band professional.”
He was credited as a songwriter for tracks including “Saturday Night Special” and “Workin’ for MCA,” and provided the opening count on their 1974 hit “Sweet Home Alabama,” which he wrote with guitarist Gary Rossington and singer Ronnie Van Zant.
The track was written as a response to Neil Young’s songs “Southern Man” and “Alabama,” which focused on the Southern white man’s rise on the back of slavery. It is now considered a Southern anthem, played often at sporting events, and was used for a time on Alabama license plates.
Mr. King left the band in 1975, two years before Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing singer Cassie Gaines died in a plane crash. He rejoined the group in 1987, when Johnny Van Zant took his brother’s place as lead singer, and played with the band until retiring in 1996 because of heart problems.
He and the pre-crash members of the band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Mr. King was born in Glendale, Calif., on Sept. 14, 1949. He was an original member of the California psychedelic group Strawberry Alarm Clock, which scored a No. 1 hit with the 1967 song “Incense and Peppermints.” He helped write the track, according to the reference source All Music, but was not credited as a songwriter.
A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.