About 30 years ago, San Diego had its first “Street Scene” which were these cool festivals they had going for about 25 years. They ended up getting a lot more contemporary bands (ie hip-hop and alternative), but the first one had a lot of groups I loved. And I was determined to get some autographs. Robby Kreiger of The Doors, was playing with keyboardist Brian Auger. I had gotten Kreiger a few years earlier, and didn’t want to lug around any albums. I had instead ripped out two photos from a Doors coffee table book. Since the stages were set up all over downtown San Diego, and this wasn’t a normal concert venue, I figured it should be easy to slip into areas where I’d see the artist and get signatures. And I was right. I went through a few trailers that were set up in a weird location, walked around the corner, and Kreiger was standing there talking to a sound guy. I had him sign my two pictures (I ended up giving one, years later, to a girlfriend living in Germany that was a huge Doors fan). The second autograph I got was Eric Burdon of The Animals. I’m a huge fan, and had also gotten him before. When I was going to SDSU, I was waiting outside a club, and one of my professors saw me. We started talking, got invited onto Burdon’s bus with about 10 other autograph collectors. Burden was signing everything for us, talking music, and his tour manager came onboard screaming at us. He demanded we all get off the bus. He said, “Unless it’s women that are going to screw us, we don’t want you here!”
Ah, the life of a rock star.
Burdon was in a bit of a hurry at the Street Scene, but quickly scribbled a messy signature on a cassette I had of The Animals (remember cassettes? Nothing worse for getting a signature on, they’re so damn small). I also had his drummer sign, who told me, “You know, I wasn’t on this record. I was never an ‘Animal’.” I replied, “I know, but...you were so damn good, I want your autograph anyway.” He reminded me of Keith Moon, and I was sure he’d rise to stardom (I can’t even remember his name now).
The last autograph I got that day was from Ed King, who I just found out died, at age 68. I didn’t know who he was at the time. But, the Strawberry Alarm Clock (Incense and Peppermints and Tomorrow were their big ‘60s hits) was playing at one of the smaller stages. I didn’t have anything for them to sign, but my friend Myrna is an artist. She had a sketch pad with her, with colored pencils. She quickly drew an alarm clock, with a strawberry coming out of the top part of it. It was awesome. It looked like it could’ve been a psychedelic album cover from back in the day. The band came over and signed the drawing, praising how cool it was and asking about the artist. Myrna smiled shyly as I pointed to her.
The guitarist was named Ed King, and he couldn’t have been nicer. We started talking about music, and his bandmember said, “You know, he was in Lynyrd Skynyrd, too.”
That blew me away. How many people have been in a band that was a one-hit wonder, and could find success again? Turns out, he co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama.”
He was in Skynyrd from 1972 to 1975, and again from 1987 to 1996. His heart problems lead to him not continuing with them. Apparently, Skynyrd had opened for SAC in the late ‘60s, and when their bassist left, he joined, but eventually moved over to guitar when that bassist (Leon Wilkeson) rejoined the group. King co-wrote the SAC hit (although he never got credit), and co-wrote some cool Skynyrd tracks, including “Saturday Night Special,” “Swamp Music,” “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller” “Poison Whiskey” and “Working for MCA.”
Most people wouldn’t consider leaving a band that was successful, but it’s a move that saved his life in a few ways. He was having heart problems, and...the guitarist that replaced him (Steve Gaines) died in the plane crash that killed many members of the band (including singer Ronnie Van Zant).
King did rejoin the band in the mid-80s, but after 10 years, his congestive heart failure made it too much. So, when I saw Skynyrd on their farewell tour about 4 months ago, he wasn’t there.
The last thing King did was appear in 2017 on an episode of “Moonshiners.” Fitting for the guy who wrote a few songs about booze.
He had been battling cancer for the last few months, and died at his home in Nashville yesterday. I’m gonna down a shot of whiskey in honor of this Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Famer, who took the time to talk me and Myrna 30 years ago (unfortunately, she’s now been battling cancer for a few years now and isn’t doing so well).