Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown has died at the age of 65, his family have announced.
The Scottish vocalist, who fronted the iconic pop rock band during their 1970s heyday and who was known for his romantic lyrics and flamboyant fashion, died suddenly at home.
The announcement was made by his family on the band’s Facebook page this afternoon.
The statement read: ‘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. We are currently making arrangements for his funeral.
Pictured: Les McKeown, lead singer of the Bay City Rollers, has died suddenly aged 65
Les McKeown found worldwide fame in Scottish pop group the Bay City Rollers in the 1970s
‘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’
A cause of death has yet to be declared.
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’.
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.
Today former manager John MacLaughlan told the Daily Record: ‘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.
‘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.
Formed at the end of the 1960s, the Bay City Rollers enjoyed huge success at home and abroad
Pictured: the band had a massive teen following and sold more than 100 million records
The former Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown, pictured with his wife Keiko (left and right), has been described as one of the hardest working men in the music industry after his death on Tuesday
‘We were friends as well as working partners.
‘He was hoping to get it all going again and he was one of the hardest working men in the music industry.
‘We got on so great and he was great fun to be around. He had his moments but was always a good laugh to be around and a great performer.
He added: ‘He was a great singer. The Bay City Rollers were the biggest band in the world in the mid seventies and beyond.
‘They had their own TV show and Rollermania. They flew the flag for Scotland and made me think as a wee boy watching the telly you can be a popstar and in music and they meant a lot to me getting involved in music and the industry and the clothes and the hair and image were brilliant and the gang mentality was amazing.
‘I’m honoured to have worked with them.’
Guitarist Stuart Woody Wood said: ‘I am upset and shocked to hear this very sad news.
‘Les and I had our differences over the years but even though we had disagreements we are sending our heartfelt condolences to Peko wife and his son Jubie and all the Bay City Rollers Fans. It’s a sad day in Bay City Roller history.
‘He was a great performance on stage and he was full of energy. Iwas roadying when Les first came into the band and I saw his first gig when he took over from Nobby Clark and injected new life into the band.
‘I was fifteen and he was seventeen. I joined properly when I turned sixteen in 74. He had lots of energy on stage.’
The news comes after bassist Alan Longmuir died aged 70 in the summer of 2018.
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.
The band was formed by Alan Longmuir, who died in 2018, with his younger brother Derek
While Mitchell was with the Rollers, they released the 1976 album Dedication and a cover version of Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want to Be With You.
But he found tensions within the band hard to cope with and departed that December, to be replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn.
While with the Bay City Rollers Ian recorded one album, Dedication, in 1976, and had a hit cover of the Dusty Springfield song ‘I Only Want to be With You.’
The track reached number 12 on the US charts.
He also earned a mention in Friends in a 2001 episode when Monica and Chandler get engaged.
On the official Bass City Rollers Twitter page today a message read: ‘We are saddened by the news of Leslie McKeown’s death. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Peko and his son Jubei, their family and friends. Rest In Peace, Leslie’.
Meanwhile 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.’
Elsewhere boxer Frank Bruno wrote: ‘RIPLesMcKeown Bay City Rollers frontman he was part of the music scene when I was growing up & I remember tartan clad girls all screaming it was a hysteria era music wise with The Osmond’s David Cassidy & Bay City Rollers seems like yesterday I was more into Reggae & soul music.’
Tributes have been paid to the former frontman of the Bay City Rollers on social media