Les McKeown, the lead singer in the classic line-up of Bay City Rollers, the Scottish pop group that achieved phenomenal success worldwide in the 1970s, died Tuesday. He was 65 years old.
His family announced the death in a statement on social media. The statement said he died in his home but did not say where it was or the cause.
The Rollers – believed to have got their name when they threw an arrow at a map and it landed in Bay City, Michigan – were founded in the late 1960s, but only drew a fanatical one after Mr. McKeown joined in 1973 Teen, replacing original lead singer Nobby Clark.
Known for their catchy, upbeat songs (many of them American oldies) and their distinctive tartan outfits, the Rollers sold more than 100 million records and were touted as the biggest thing since the Beatles. Sid Bernstein, the American promoter who presented the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965, brought the Rollers to the United States in 1976.
But they were never critical favorites, and they turned out to be far less eclectic and musically more limited than the Beatles. Their string of hits ended in 1978, the year Mr. McKeown left the band.
The Bay City Rollers began their attack on the UK charts in 1974 with “Remember (Sha-La-La-La)”. Other hits like “Shang-a-Lang”, “Bye Bye Baby” and “Give a Little Love” soon followed.
They achieved success well beyond Great Britain. It took them a little longer to break into the American market, but their first American hit, “Saturday Night”, peaked at number one in late 1975. They had five other top 40 hits in the US and made frequent appearances on American television ;; They even briefly had their own TV show on Saturday morning.
After Mr. McKeown left to pursue a solo career, the Bay City Rollers shortened their name to Rollers and continued to play and record, but with little success. Various versions of the band, with and without Mr. McKeown, have done occasional reunion tours since then; Three members of the classic cast, Mr McKeown, Stuart Wood, and Alan Longmuir briefly reunited in 2015. Mr. Longmuir died in 2018.
A band dubbed “Les McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers” had announced a post-pandemic UK tour that was due to begin in July.
Leslie Richard McKeown was born on November 12, 1955 in Edinburgh to Irish parents Francis and Florence (Close) McKeown. He is survived by his wife Keiko and their son Jubei.
The Associated Press contributed to the coverage.