Ed King

Ed: Touring in ’68 & ’69 was a highlight of my life

Ed King ex-Strawberry Alarm Clock“I am the luckiest guitar player on Earth,” Ed King declares.

King caught lightning in a bottle twice: First as a co-founder of the hitmaking Strawberry Alarm Clock and then as a member of the Southern rock giants Lynyrd Skynyrd.

As a teenager, King was a founding member of Thee Sixpence, the high school group that transformed itself into the Strawberry Alarm Clock. (Read King’s fan forum thread about the psychedelic group.)

He and keyboardist Mark Weitz wrote the music for the smash hit “Incense and Peppermints,” starting with a memorable riff dreamed up by Weitz. King contributed the bridge to the then-instrumental.

Weitz tells the story: “I couldn’t figure out a bridge for the song. Ed King lived pretty close. I called him and told him I need a bridge for this new song idea I’m working on. He drove over, and about 45 minutes later we had it.”

The single’s songwriting credits notoriously failed to note their role in creating the song, but “Incense and Peppermints” hit No. 1 in 1967 and remains a rock-pop radio staple to this day.

Credit for “Incense and Peppermints” went to a songwriting team that worked with the publisher. “We were told that was the price we had to pay to get started in the business,” King recalled in an interview with Classic Rock Revival a few years back.

He and Weitz collaborated again on “Tomorrow,” which charted at No. 23 in early 1968. Once again, King came to the rescue with a bridge.

Strawberry Alarm Clock in 1969King continued to write songs with Weitz as well as guitarist Lee Freeman. SAC songs that King co-wrote include “Sit With the Guru,” “The Black Butter Trilogy,” “Pretty Song From Psych-Out” and “Soft Skies, No Lies.”

King says, “The (SAC) tours with the Beach Boys in ’67 and ’68 outshine any other period in my life. Carl Wilson coming over to my room to show me the chords to ‘God Only Knows’ far outweighs any Skynyrd experience.”

(Photo: Ed King, center, with the band in 1969.)

King stayed with the band until 1972, when he took a flyer and joined a Southern rock band that had opened for the Strawberry Alarm Clock on a regional tour. That band was Lynyrd Skynyrd, which was heading into the studio to record its first album with producer Al Kooper.

King started out playing bass and then switched to guitar.

He formed a songwriting partnership with singer Ronnie Van Zant, which produced “Poison Whisky” on that album and then later “Sweet Home Alabama,” one of the band’s two signature songs.

Other Skynyrd songs co-written by King include “Saturday Night Special,” “Swamp Music,” “I Need You,” “Workin’ for MCA” and “Railroad Song.”

King left Skynyrd after three albums. That was two years before the fatal plane crash that claimed the life of Ronnie Van Zant and other two other members of the band.

In 1987, King joined the Lynyrd Skynyrd survivors reunion tour and played with the band until health problems forced him out in 1996.

In 2006, King entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

He has retired from the music business, but wishes he played on the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s new album, the band’s first in more than 40 years:

“The album is a labor of love,” King said in May 2012. “I wish I lived closer so I could take part. The guys play better than ever and the addition of Steve Bartek makes it now the way it should’ve been. I think his parents wouldn’t let him join the band! ‘Mr. Farmer’ is my favorite track. Mark Weitz NAILED it.”

* Top left photo by Janine Goulet (2005)


  1. gary Shepard says:

    Greetings Ed,
    Herbert Hoover Class of 1967. How are you?

    Thanks for Inncense and Peppermint, and Sweet Home Alabama. Those two songs have been in and out of my life all these years. Our son’s home school basketball team adopted Sweet Home Alabama as their theme song. And of course the Incense and Peppermint in the movie “Wild America”.

    Take care and enjoy your music. gary

  2. Bill Ulmer says:

    Hey Ed. It was nice to read your whole musical history. Very enchanted life. I was your cab driver in Las Vegas back in the early 90’s when I took you to the Thomas & Mack for your concert. I enjoyed our conversation and the fact that I was at the Sanctuary in Myrtle Beach in 1971 when you and the SAC played there.

  3. Phyllis Luque says:

    I’ll never forget the first morning I heard ‘Incense and Peppermints’ on my radio as I was dressing to head out to school. It wasn’t the first time I had heard it. … You and Gene had played the cut for us in Daily High School’s office when it was finished. I’ve always enjoyed keeping watch on your successful, talented career, Ed.

  4. Hey Ed!
    Funny thing happened last year when I wsa traveling up to my favorite used record shop.I was purchasing an SAC compilation and got talking about the band with the shop owner who thought that you were…DEAD!What do you think about the ultra-legendary status of “Free Bird”?Among us classic rock enthusiasts,it never seems to get or stale.I once heard Balck Sabbath’s Tony Iommi say he never gets tired of playiing “Paranoid”.Is this ever the case with “Bird” or “Sweet Home Alabama”?

  5. Ed I wish you would play for Skynyrd again you and Gary made magic the other two guys cant even tie your shoes ! when Ronnie was incharge he had nothing but the best not ok or medieockers
    You are a great guitarist I miss your slide

  6. Hi Ed,
    I recall a picture or video of you and SAC on a freeway and I think you guys smashed a car. Is that true or am I thinking of another group?

    After Hoover Hi our Uncle Sam requested I take a 4 year cruise on a Navy Tanker. Thankfully my time off Viet Nam was mostly a few miles off shore. Only a time or two in-country.

    Take care and for what it is worth you and Weitz ARE THE creators of “Incense and Peppermint”.

    gary from Hoover 1967

  7. Skip LeMaster says:

    Hi Ed….don’t think you will remember me — I was class of ’68, but you were in one of my classes … you always sat in the back, and you said you were writing songs!! Last time I saw you was out in front of Wallachs Music City — you pulled up in a limo, and we spoke going into the store … you were telling me what a lousy guitarist Erik Braun was in Iron Butterfly!!!

  8. Tyler Barrett says:

    Hey Ed!
    I really enjoy all the work you did with Strawberry Alarm Clock and Sknynrd. The more and more I read about you, the more and more I enjoy and respect your work. I had no idea you did work with The Beach Boys … The Beach Boys are awesome! I wish other musicians were more like you and open to the fans. It seems as though all famous musicians never really make time for the fans. You seem so down to earth. I watched an interview of you discussing Skynyrd and, contrary to what most fans say, you were somewhat reluctant to take credit for the Sweet Home Alabama lick.
    I’m also trying to find a fanmail address so I may request an autograph, I would absolutely love to have your autograph on display in my room.
    You rock, Ed!

  9. David Chirko says:

    Anybody know anything about the book called “Strawberry Alarm Clock” (paperback, with purple and white front cover, released January 1st, 2013) by Ronald Cohn & Jesse Russell?

  10. Hello Ed Thanks for Incense and Peppermints and my favorite SAC track Tomorrow I sure wish you would have been on the new SAC album I hope all is well with you The music world needs more contributions from you All the best, Joey PS: I also play bass and love your parts on the song Tomorrow

  11. Ron Baida says:

    Hi Ed

    I don’t know if you remember me from Hoover class of ’67. I remember you playing with SAC in the auditorium. I was best friends with Robert Phenicie, who you might remember as your roadie in the early days. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1992 of heart failure. I just recently caught up with your career with LS. Great going!

    Have you been contacted about our fifty year reunion from Steve Archer?
    I believe it’s in Pasadena this coming summer. Will you be attending?

    Hope to hear back from you

    Ron Baida
    Hoover class of 1967

  12. tony hanson says:

    Hi Ed. My name is tony. Im writing this because awhile back i rented a place to live and found a 45 of strawberry alarm clock on one side is, sit with a guru and the other is, pretty song from psych-out… I was wondering if you would like to have it… I ask because i feel that it belongs with you… Please look forward to hearing back from you either way… tonyhanson55@gmail.com

  13. ok Ed
    settle a bet….
    which one of SAC band sold timeshare in cozumel for awhile??

  14. Keith D. Plunk says:

    Just listened to Grease in the frying pan. I grew up and still live in Memphis … John Fry was my friend who owned and ran Ardent Recording Studios. You guys sounded fantastic and I thought it would be nice to let you know how wonderful that live show sounded. I learned so much from that classic southern sound. You are the best and a good man! Robert Nix was a friend who I played with briefly. Tuesday’s gone was a favorite of mine as well. Godbless you buddy. Stay safe.

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