Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown dies at 65 | Pop and rock


Les McKeown, the singer who led the Bay City Rollers in their most successful period, has died at age 65.

His family said he “died suddenly at home” and asked for privacy after “the shock of our deep loss”. No cause of death has been announced.

McKeown, who grew up in an Edinburgh apartment building, sang the Scottish band’s UK No 1 Bye Bye Baby as well as top 10 hits such as Shang-a-Lang and Summerlove Sensation, and drove them into a successful phase. American in the middle. -70s.

The Bay City Rollers were formed in 1964, originally with singer Gordon Clark, playing mostly covers of American pop and R&B songs. They broke through in 1971 with Keep on Dancing, but their popularity waned and Clark left in 1973 to be replaced by McKeown.

The handsome singer quickly gathered a teenage audience and took the group back to the Top 10 in 1974 with Remember (Sha-La-La-La), the first in a series of hit singles that cemented the group as the one of the UK’s most popular – and shouted out – groups. In all, they have sold over 120 million records.

They had success with other cover versions such as Bye Bye Baby, but also original tracks such as Give a Little Love, a UK No.1 in 1975 (written by songwriters John Goodison and Phil Wainman) and hits written by a group such as Money Honey. . McKeown and the band proudly displayed their Scottish heritage with tartan clothing, which quickly became uniform for fans. “We were young working class people who wanted to be famous, and wanted to play all over the world and make our music, Scotland and tartan famous, and that was our main focus,” McKeown said in 2013.

At the height of their British fame in 1975, Clive Davis, who founded Arista Records in 1974 and would later nurture Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen, successfully launched the group in North America – they reached No.1 in the United States with the single Saturday Night and had two more Top 10 hits.

The McKeowns, above, with the Bay City Rollers in the 1970s.
The McKeowns, above, with the Bay City Rollers in the 1970s. Photograph: Gab Archive / Redferns

Fashions have changed and the band’s popularity waned in the latter part of the decade. McKeown left in 1978, aged 22, as the group turned to updated new-wave sound, but joined them on various reunion tours, most recently in 2015.

He was successful in Japan in 1979 with his first solo album All Washed Up, and released eight other solo albums. The most recent, The Lost Songs of 2016, featured songs he wrote on the road with the Bay City Rollers in the 1970s.

In 1975, as his fame grew, McKeown was convicted of reckless driving after punching and killing an elderly neighbor, Euphemia Clunie. He was fined £ 100 and a one-year driving ban. In another case, in 2005, it was discovered that he was driving drunk, more than double the legal limit, and had left the scene of an accident. He was banned for 18 months and fined £ 1,000.

McKeown experienced periods of drug and alcohol addiction, starting in the late 1970s. He later said he had “been turned to the dark side” by the death of his parents unless ‘a month apart, and that he had developed a drinking problem in the early 2000s, drinking “one, two, maybe three bottles of whiskey a day.” He became sober after spending four months in a California drug rehab in 2008.

The group was embroiled in a long-standing legal dispute over royalties owed to them, with former manager Tam Paton and their label Sony. McKeown also claimed that Paton, who died in 2009, gave him drugs while he was with the group: “When we were a little tired he would give us amphetamines. He would keep us awake quickly, ”he told The Guardian in 2005, describing him elsewhere as“ a thug, a predator ”.

He is survived by his wife Peko Keiko, whom he first met in 1978, and their son Jubei.


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