Guitarist King was rocking in NC until band came calling
Former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King died last week of cancer at age 68, and obituaries noted his contributions to Skynyrd classics like “Sweet Home Alabama.”
They also took note of King’s time in the band Strawberry Alarm Clock, for whom he co-wrote the 1967 No. 1 hit “Incense and Peppermints.”
Between those two signposts, however, King spent some time in North Carolina.
He moved to Raleigh after Strawberry Alarm Clock broke up in 1972 and played in a series of bands that year, including Smokehouse and Steve Ball Band.
During his time here, King was a bandmate and roommate with drummer Scott Davison, later of the band Arrogance.
“Besides his two guitars and amp, all his possessions would fit into two little black valises,” Davison said. “He had a little Toyota Corona and was the first person I knew who drove a Japanese car. And he’d sit around playing along with records. He could do all the Allman Brothers stuff note for note, of course.”
In the summer of 1972, Smokehouse moved from Raleigh to Greenville and lived in “a horrific roachinfested house,” Davison said, while serving as house band at a nightclub.
That was where Lynyrd Skynyrd tracked him down.
King had met Skynyrd years earlier when they opened for Strawberry Alarm Clock. Skynyrd had just signed to MCA Records, needed a bass player and wanted King. Davison got the news over beers after a show one night.
“He told me this band from Florida asked him to join,” Davison said. “‘I love the band here, I think we could be great, but they’ve got a record deal,’ he said. And I told him, ‘As much as I love playing with you, I’d jump on that in a hot second.’ So a couple of the guys from Skynyrd came up to get him and the last thing I remember was him driving away, the trunk of his Toyota not closing all the way over his amp.”
After King switched from bass to guitar, his slide-guitar leads became a Skynyrd signature on songs like 1974’s “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.” That’s also his voice on the introductory countdown at the beginning of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
King spent a tumultuous few years in Skynyrd before leaving in 1975, two years before the plane crash that killed three members, including frontman Ronnie Van Zant.
He returned to the ranks in the 1980s and ’90s as a member of the reconstituted versions of Skynyrd until health issues forced him off the road in the mid-1990s.
He was inducted along with the rest of the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
The latest version of Skynyrd is still on the road today, although not for much longer. The band’s “Last of the Street Survivors” farewell tour played Raleigh on June 29.
Over the years, Davison saw King a few times when he was in Raleigh for shows. They also kept up by email. When Davison sent a message telling King he’d seen “Sweet Home Alabama” in a television show, King sent back a one-word reply: “Cha-ching.”
“Last time we were in touch was back in April when I heard he was going in for surgery,” Davison said. “I emailed him best wishes and he sent back a real nice note. He was probably the least rockstarry person you’d ever meet, would rather talk about guitars or his dogs. Very down to earth.”
This 1975 file photo shows guitarist Ed King of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. A family statement said King, who helped write several of the band’s hits, died from cancer last Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn. He was 68.