Les McKeown — former lead singer of the Bay City Rollers who was the voice of the Scottish pop-rock group during their hit-making peak — has died at the age of 65.
“It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father Leslie Richard McKeown,” his wife Keiko and son Jubei wrote on the singer’s official Twitter. “Leslie died suddenly at home on Tuesday 20 April 2021. We are currently making arrangements for his funeral and ask for privacy after the shock of our profound loss.”
The current Bay City Rollers added in a tweet, “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.”
Although the Bay City Rollers formed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the mid-Sixties, it wasn’t until the recruitment of McKeown in 1973 that the band found global mainstream success, first in Europe (where they were considered one of the first “boy bands”) and soon after in America.
While the McKeown-sung single “Shang-a-Lang” was a Number 2 hit in Britain in 1973, the Bay City Rollers scored their first Number 1 stateside with “Saturday Night”; the band originally released the track in 1973 with a different vocalist (it failed to chart) but later rerecorded it with McKeown as frontman. Released in late-1975, “Saturday Night” reached the top of the Hot 100 in January 1976, and would serve as the band’s most enduring track.
Over the next two years, the McKeown-led Bay City Rollers released a series of Hot 100-impacting singles: “Money Honey,” “I Only Want to Be With You,” and “You Made Me Believe in Magic,” with the band also the stars of their own short-lived NBC Saturday morning variety show. The BBC writes that, during McKeown’s six-year tenure with Bay City Rollers, the band sold 120 million records.
However, by 1978, McKeown and the band (now just “the Rollers”) parted ways, with the singer releasing a handful of solo albums over the Eighties.
McKeown and founding members of the Bay City Rollers sporadically reunited over the ensuing decades, most recently in 2015; at the time of his death, McKeown had announced a lengthy tour (as Les McKeown’s Bay City Rollers) that was scheduled to begin in July 2021, Variety reports.