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Ed King, guitarist for the ‘60s band Strawberry Alarm Clock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, died August 22 at his Nashville home at 68. He had battled cancer.
A Southern California native, King, who started playing guitar at 12, was part of a mid 60's band called Thee Sixpence that evolved into the Strawberry Alarm Clock. He and keyboard player Mark Weitz co-wrote a melody that became their 1967 signature song, "Incense and Peppermints." Weitz created the hypnotic riff; King added the bridge, all in 45 minutes. Sole writer credits, however, went to the two lyricists hired by the song publisher. "Incense" reached # 1 nationwide and earned a Gold Record and their debut album (same title) reached the Top 20.
The SAC personified the era's day-glo, spacey psychedelic ambiance, with King playing dual roles as musician and writer. He co-wrote their next two singles: the Top 30 "Tomorrow" and "Sit With The Guru." He co-wrote most of the songs on SAC's second album Wake Up, It's Tomorrow. By late 1968, King moved to bass and worked on their third and fourth albums, The World In A Seashell and Good Morning Starshine. Amid constant touring, two SAC tours with the Beach Boys left particularly fond memories. Decades later, King told Gary James of classicbands.com, he considered those two tours "the highlight of my life, even to this day, over and above Skynyrd."
On a southern tour, King met Ronnie Van Zant of the then-unknown Lynyrd Skynyrd. When SAC dissolved in 1971, he moved south and in November, 1972 replaced Leon Wilkeson as Skynyrd's bassist. King's move to guitar when Wilkeson returned restored the band's original three-guitar front line. Their only non-Southern member, King, Van Zant and Gary Rossington co-wrote their immortal 1974 Top Ten anthem "Sweet Home Alabama." That's Ed on the record, counting off before before launching into the now-classic opening riff.
Exhausted by Skynyrd's endless touring, he left in 1975, two years before the band's catastrophic plane crash. He rejoined for their 1987 reunion and stayed until congestive heart failure forced his retirement in 1996. A heart transplant recipient, King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 for his work with Skynyrd.