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Les McKeown, Singer For Bay City Rollers, Dies At 65

Les McKeown, performing on Aug. 24, 2007 in Sydney.
Les McKeown, performing on Aug. 24, 2007 in Sydney.

Les McKeown, best known as the singer for Scotland's Bay City Rollers, died April 20 of unspecified causes. He was 65.

"It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father Leslie Richard McKeown," wrote wife Peko Keiko and son Jubei McKeown on the singer's Facebook account. "Leslie died suddenly at home on Tuesday. We are currently making arrangements for his funeral and ask for privacy after the shock of our profound loss."

Formed in the mid-1960s, but with a lineup not solidified until 1974, the "tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh" found immediate success on the U.K. charts with "Remember (Sha La La)," "Shang-a-Lang" and "Summer Love Sensation." The pop band found a foothold between doo-wop and the burgeoning glam scene — just enough edge to make the songs rock, but buoyed by bubblegum melodies.

But it wasn't until 1975 that the Bay City Rollers, riding high on "Rollermania" in the U.K., made worldwide impact. "Saturday Night," which appeared on 1974's Rollin' and initially failed to chart, was brought to American audiences via Clive Davis, then just made head of Arista Records. The song, with its cheerleader chant "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y," hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, securing the band a live-via-satellite performance on, where else, Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.

McKeown appeared on eight Bay City Rollers albums before leaving the band, which had its own revolving door of members, in 1978. He continued to record and perform solo, quite prolifically, right up until the pandemic.

"Just getting out there and making people say, 'Wow! That was some f****** band,'" McKeown said last August. "To put on a really great show. A show that people want; the hits, no musical ego, no dramas, just a good time."

McKeown joined the Bay City Rollers for the first time in two decades in 2014, which led to a series of reunion concerts in 2015 and 2016.

"I was deeply saddened to hear that Les had passed away," Derek Longmuir, co-founder of the Bay City Rollers, told Edinburgh News. "We had our differences, but we spent many great and fun years travelling around the world at the height of Rollermania. And that is what I will remember. He was a brilliant frontman for the band. A great entertainer. We had some amazing times together. My sincere condolences to his lovely wife and son."

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