Les McKeown, the lead singer of the classical lineup of the Bay City Rollers, the Scottish pop group that had phenomenal worldwide success in the 1970s, died on Tuesday. He was 65 years old.
His family announced the death in a statement on social media. The statement indicates he died at his home, but did not say where he was or specify the cause.
The Rollers, who were said to have received their name when they threw a dart at a map and landed in Bay City, Michigan, formed in the late 1960s, but began to attract a teenage fanatic after joining. of Mr. McKeown in 1973, replacing lead singer Nobby Clark.
Known for their catchy and upbeat songs (many of them old American) and their distinctive tartan dresses, the Rollers sold over 100 million records and were promoted as the most important since the Beatles. Sid Bernstein, the American promoter who introduced the Beatles to Shea Stadium in 1965, brought the Rollers to the United States in 1976.
But they were never critical favorites and proved far less versatile and more musically limited than the Beatles. His series of successes ended in 1978, the year in which Mr. McKeown left the band.
The Bay City Rollers began their assault on the British charts in 1974 with “Remember (Sha-La-La-La)”. Other hits soon followed, such as “Shang-a-Lang”, “Bye Bye Baby” and “Give a Little Love”.
They were successful far beyond Britain. It took them a little longer to break the American market, but their first American hit, “Saturday Night,” reached No. 1 in late 1975. They went on to have five major Top 40 hits in the United States and they often appeared on American television; they even briefly had their own Saturday morning TV show.
After Mr. McKeown left to pursue a solo career, the Bay City Rollers shortened his name to Rollers and continued to perform and record, but with little success. Several versions of the band, with and without Mr. McKeown, have toured occasionally since then; three members of the classical formation, Mr. McKeown, Stuart Wood and Alan Longmuir, met briefly in 2015. Mr. Longmuir died in 2018.
A band featured as “The McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers” had announced a post-pandemic British tour starting in July.
Leslie Richard McKeown was born in Edinburgh on November 12, 1955, to Irish parents, Francis and Florence (Close) McKeown. He is survived by his wife, Keiko, and his son, Jubei.
The Associated Press contributed to the reports.