Tiny Evening News advert led to Bay City Rollers

Les McKeown with Threshold on Calton Hill in 1973. Picture: Pete Gillam
Les McKeown with Threshold on Calton Hill in 1973. Picture: Pete Gillam
Have your say

IT was just a small advert in the pages of his local newspaper – little could he have known it would send him on the road to superstardom.

Les McKeown had just left school as a young teenager when, flicking through the Evening News, he ­spotted a band’s appeal for a singer.

Soon enough, he was the frontman for Threshold, a role which led to him being offered the chance to lead the Bay City ­Rollers.

Now, ahead of his gig at Howden Park Centre in Livingston on Sunday night, the 58-year-old has taken a trip down memory lane.

Speaking to the News today, he recalled scouring the small ads after being expelled – or “asked to leave”, as he put it – from Forrester High School for a “dirty protest” which left the teacher’s elevator soiled.

Les said: “I desperately wanted to leave that school, it was a horrible place, and I thought ‘I can’t just walk out the door’. So I ‘s***-bombed’ the lift and told all my mates, ‘Remember, don’t feel bad about grassing me up’.

“That gave me the chance to live my dreams by answering ads in the Evening News . . . that’s how I started my career as a singer.”

The Bay City Rollers – “tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh” – ruled the music world in the 1970s, the line-up during their heyday featuring guitarists Eric Faulkner and Stuart Wood bassist Alan Longmuir and drummer Derek Longmuir. Hits such as Bye, Bye, Baby and Shang-A-Lang rocketed up the charts as their predominately ­teenage female audience continued to grow.

But first, for Les, there was Threshold. He said: “I joined Threshold knowing that singing was something I could do and do really well.

“I felt really comfortable cocking my hoop at the front of the stage.”

Despite court battles over royalties, battling addictions, and a roller-coaster career, the singer said he was happy to be back on stage ­celebrating the 40th anniversary of the pop band in which he made his wat to stardom.

Still the consummate showman, he is back on the road with his own band, Les 
McKeown’s Bay City Rollers.

They stop off in West Lothian on Sunday evening, the closest his tour comes to bringing him home to the Capital, when fans can don the tartan once more to relive their youth as they dance and sing along to hits such as All Of Me Loves All Of You, Summerlove Sensation and, of course, Shang-A-Lang.

The singer, who was born in the Simpson Maternity Hospital at the Royal Infirmary, confessed he was enjoying the experience a lot more this time.

“It is really good fun to do and to be involved again. Recapturing and reliving the positive stuff that happened in my past.”