Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown dies aged 65

Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter
·2 min read

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

The Scottish pop vocalist, known for his romantic lyrics and flamboyant fashion sense, 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.

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“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.”

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.

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”.

Bay City Rollers anthology
Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown greets fans (Yui Mok/PA)

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.

Music – Sun Television Awards – Hilton Hotel – 1975
The Bay City Rollers in 1975 (PA)

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.