As the story goes, King was tuning his guitar as he picked a D then a C followed by two G notes. Ronnie Van Zant heard it and told him to play it again.
Thus was created the familiar opening of what would eventually to become Lynyrd Skynyrd’s monster hit “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Van Zant, the group’s lead singer, supplied the lyrics to the tune. While King contributed to songs such as “Saturday Night Special,” almost all the other early Skynyrd tunes were co-written by Van Zant and guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington.
King had already tasted success as lead guitarist of the ‘60s West Coast group Strawberry Alarm Clock, which charted the hit “Incense and Peppermints.” He joined the Jacksonville, FL-based Skynyrd as a replacement bassist. But when original bass player Leon Wilkeson returned to the band King became the third guitarist. He left Skynryd after the third album, “Nuthin’ Fancy.”
Throughout my teenage years Sweet Home was a cover band standard played in bars, hotel lounges and every school dance. It was so popular that at one dance I remember the band played the song over and over for an entire set.
The irony is that the song breaks one of the cardinal rules of good songwriting. Composers are taught to make the chorus contrast with the verse. The change can be in tempo or melody or both.
Sweet Home Alabama maintains the same chord progression throughout and the melody of the verse and chorus is the same.
Of course the repetition may very well be one of the reasons the tune was so catchy.
Ed has now followed band mates Ronnie, Leon, lead guitarist Allen Collins (Freebird), and pianist Billy Powell into the afterlife. But his best-known composition will live on.