Gui­tarist King was rock­ing in NC un­til band came call­ing

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY DAVID MENCONI dmen­[email protected]­sob­ David Menconi: 919- 829- 4759, @NCDavidMen­coni

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.”

AP file photo

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.

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