Les McKeown dead at 65: Bay City Rollers singer dies suddenly at home

Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown has died at the age of 65.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 6:48 pm
Les McKeown

The Edinburgh-born pop vocalist was the frontman of the group during their 1970s heyday.

A statement from his family on Twitter said: "It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father Leslie Richard McKeown. Leslie died suddenly at home on Tuesday 20 April 2021.

"We are currently making arrangements for his funeral and ask for privacy after the shock of our profound loss. Thank you. Keiko and Jubei McKeown."

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Les McKeown, left, with, Stuart Wood and Alan Longmuir of the Bay City Rollers.

Formed at the end of the 1960s, the Bay City Rollers enjoyed huge success at home and abroad with their distinctive tartan outfits and upbeat pop tunes like Bye Bye Baby and Shang-a-Lang.

They had a massive teen following and sold more than 100 million records.

In a recent interview, Les told Liam Rudden that he was looking forward to the possibility of another reunion with his former bandmates.

McKeown was born in Edinburgh to Irish parents and joined the Bay City Rollers in late 1973, replacing founding lead singer Gordon “Nobby” Clark, who had become disillusioned with the band’s musical direction.

Les McKeown in1975.

His arrival coincided with the Bay City Rollers’ ascent to fame and McKeown remained lead vocalist until 1978, appearing on Top Of The Pops on a number of occasions.

Formed at the end of the 1960s, the Bay City Rollers enjoyed huge success at home and abroad with their distinctive tartan outfits and upbeat pop tunes like Bye Bye Baby and Shang-a-Lang.

They had a massive teen following and sold more than 100 million records, and in the press were heralded as “biggest group since the Beatles”.

They broke through into the mainstream in 1974 after a series of singles which failed to dent the charts.

Alongside McKeown and Alan Longmuir, the classic line-up also included guitarists Eric Faulkner and Stuart Wood, with Longmuir’s younger brother Derek on drums.

McKeown, Longmuir and Wood reunited for a comeback tour in 2015 with tickets selling out in minutes.

The news comes after bassist Alan Longmuir died aged 70 in the summer of 2018.

Bassist Ian Mitchell, who joined the band in 1976 when he was 17 to replace founding member Longmuir, died aged 62 in September 2020.

Mitchell, who was from Northern Ireland, was the first band member born outside of Edinburgh, but left after seven months.

Donald MacLeod, who co-promoted the Bay City Rollers reunion shows staged after a short-lived reunion was announced in 2015, said: "Les was a legend. There has never been a band to come out of Scotland as the Bay City Rollers and Rollermania was a real phenomenon.

"They were huge and we should never forget that."We decided to go for the reunion shows as we felt that the Rollers were still massive and had legions of fans out there. We were proved right. We sold out four nights at the Glasgow Barrowlands and could probably have sold out four weeks.

"Les was the frontman's frontman. Every bit of it was exciting and full-on working with him. The Rollers weren't a pop band, they were rock and roll.

"They had better fights than Oasis and the Kinks put together. The passion of the fans was something else.

"Les was a lovely guy, but he was hard work. Let's face it, he had not had a great experience in the past. He was his own man.

"It wasn't easy, but it was an experience that I'll never forget and one that I absolutely loved. It was a privilege to have ran with their gang."

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