LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ed King, a former lead guitarist for the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd who co-wrote one of the group's best known hits, "Sweet Home Alabama," has died at age 68, a founding member of the band said on Thursday.
King joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1972 not long after the band formed, and with two other lead guitarists, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, helped create the group's powerful triple-guitar sound prominent on such rock classics as "Free Bird."
Rossington, a founding member of the band, said on Thursday he was "shocked and saddened" by King's death.
A notice on King's Facebook page said he died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday. No cause of death was revealed.
King left the group in 1975, two years before a plane crash killed two of the band's members and a backup vocalist.
"Ed was our brother, and a great songwriter and guitar player," Rossington wrote on the band's official Twitter account. "I know he will be reunited with the rest of the boys in Rock & Roll Heaven."
King returned to Lynyrd Skynyrd when the band regrouped in 1987, and stayed until 1996. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the band in 2006.
During his original stint, King co-wrote several songs, including 1974 hit "Sweet Home Alabama," a retort to Neil Young's "Southern Man." The California native previously played with the psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney