David Paton's year with the Bay City Rollers

David Paton of Pilot
David Paton of Pilot
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DAVID Paton was still a teenager when Tam Paton invited him to join the Bay City Rollers.

Aware of their reputation, even then, as a teeny-bop band, he only agreed to sign up when he was offered a propsal by the band’s manager that would see the Rollers buy him a Les Paul guitar, Marshall amp, and ensure he was fed and working six nights a week.

“Tam said, ‘On your night off, we’ll all go out to the cinema together, or for a Chinese... or whatever,” recalls the Pilot front man.

“Well, it wasn’t quite the direction I wanted to go in. The Rollers had their reputation as a teeny-bop band.

“They had a huge following at that time in Scotland. Long before they had their first hit in 1971, bus loads of girls would go to their gigs no matter where they played.

“I never wanted that. Music was my top priority, not the way I looked, or any of that stuff. But I thought, ‘Well, I can do it for a wee while and see how it goes.’

So I did, and for a year I had a great time.”

Ironically, it was while with the Rollers that Paton first met Billy Lyall, with whom he would later form Pilot.

The 67-year-old explains, “If someone left the band, Tam would just appear with a new band member who we knew nothing about.

“That’s what happened with Billy. One day he just appeared at rehearsals. Tam said, ‘This is your new keyboard player.’

“I thought, ‘Who is this guy?’ So I said, ‘Let’s have a wee jam...’ Billy didn’t know how to.

“He had a classical training and had come straight out of the Marines where he’d been in a military band. But boy he could play the piano.

“He played some classical pieces and just blew me away. He was a real talent.”

That was the genesis of Pilot, but when Tam Paton brought in a new rhythm guitarist who looked great but couldn’t play, the Leither decided his time as a Roller had to come to an end.

“I just thought, ‘No, that goes against everything I stand for in music’.

“Also, at the time Bell Records wanted us to sign a contact. I didn’t want to go down that route.

“They all said I was mad. That it was my best chance of success, but I would rather have not been famous than be famous for being a Bay City Roller.

“That was my choice.”

Leaving the Rollers, Paton went on to play in the house-band at Tiffany’s just as the Rollers scored their first Top 10 hit with Keep On Dancing, in 1971.

“For two years I was thinking, ‘Did I make a mistake or not?’,” he admits.

Thankfully, his decision to leave was vindicated when a chance reunion with Billy Lyall at Central Library on George IV Bridge, led to the formation of Pilot. Within year, Paton was in the Top 20 with Magic and a short time later, January was No 1 all around the world.

David Paton and Pilot are appearing in Allan Stewart's Big Big Variety Show at The King's until Saturday