Les McKeown, Bay City Rollers singer, dies 'suddenly' aged 65

Kristine Tarbert
·Features and Health Editor
·4-min read

Les McKeown, the frontman of iconic rock pop band Bay City Rollers, has died at the age of 65, his family confirmed on Thursday.

"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," his family posted on Twitter.

Les McKeown of pop group the Bay City Rollers poses in October 1975
Les McKeown of pop group the Bay City Rollers has died aged 65. Photo: Getty

"We are currently making arrangements for his funeral," the statement continued.

"If you would like to remember Leslie, please make a donation in his name to: [details] We thank you and ask for privacy after the shock of our profound loss. Thank you. Keiko and Jubei McKeown."

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Leslie McKeown was born on Nov 15, 1955, in Edinburgh, and was only 18 years old when he replaced the Bay City Rollers’ original singer, Gordon 'Nobby' Clark, in 1973.

He fronted the classic lineup — featuring Alan Longmuir (who died in 2018), Derek Longmuir, Stuart “Woody” Wood, and Eric Faulkner — during the height of the group’s “Rollermania” teen idol era, when they were being heralded as the next Beatles and even starred in their own U.K. television series. 

The “tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh” got their plaid-tastic look from Les' father, a tailor, who made their famous trousers.

Les sang on the Rollers’ biggest hits, including 'Remember (Sha-La-La-La),' 'Shang-a-Lang,' 'Summerlove Sensation,' 'Give a Little Love,' 'All of Me Loves All of You,' and a cover of the Four Seasons’ 'Bye, Bye, Baby,' all of which cracked the top 10 in Britain. 

Their LPs Rollin’ and Once Upon a Star both went to No. 1 on the U.K. album chart, and the band eventually went on to sell 120 million records worldwide.

The Bay City Rollers Alan Longmuir, Derek Longmuir, Les Mckeown, Stuart 'Woody' Wood, Eric Faulkner.
The Bay City Rollers in March 1974. Left to right: Alan Longmuir, Derek Longmuir, Les Mckeown, Stuart 'Woody' Wood, Eric Faulkner. Photo: Getty

The band’s American breakthrough came in 1975 with the single, and arguably their signature song, 'Saturday Night', which went to No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

There were some dark times for Les however, who in in 1975, was found guilty of reckless driving after striking and killing a 76-year-old woman, Euphemia Clunie, during a visit to his family in Edinburgh. 

He later confessed in various interviews that the ensuing unshakable guilt played a large role in his drug and alcohol addiction, which began in the late ‘70s. In 2005, he was arrested for driving while drunk and was found to be over twice the legal limit. After several stays in rehab, Les became sober for good in 2008.

In 1978, Les departed the band as they decided to go in a more new-wave musical direction. He released nine solo albums during his career. In 2015, he reunited with Stuart Woo and Alan Longmuir for a Bay City Rollers nostalgia tour.

Les McKeown and Stuart Wood of The Bay City Rollers performing at the Eventim Apollo
Les McKeown reunited with some band members like Stuart Wood for a Bay City Rollers nostalgia tour. Photo: AP

Family, friends and fans were left in shock over the star's sudden passing taking to social media to share tributes.

"I'm very sad and shocked and so is Peko, his wife. She is heartbroken and called me from Les' phone with the news. I picked up and thought it was Les wanting a chat," former manager John MacLaughlan said.

"I'm still in shock right now, I spoke to him last week and he was on great form and happy about life and happy to book his tour. We were friends as well as working partners."

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wrote: "One of my first loves. I'm feeling some teen heartache but know it'll be very real for his family and friends. Sending love, condolences and thanks for the memories."

On Twitter one fan wrote: "Sad news of Les McKeown's passing. Bay City Rollers posters took pride of place on my childhood bedroom wall. Bye Bye Baby."

Additional reporting by Lyndsey Parker.

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