Tributes paid to Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown following death

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Tributes have been paid to Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown after he died suddenly at the age of 65.

The Scottish pop vocalist, known for his romantic lyrics and flamboyant fashion sense, was the frontman of the group during their 1970s heyday.

A statement from his family on Twitter said: “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 and ask for privacy after the shock of our profound loss. Thank you. Keiko and Jubei McKeown.”

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.

A message on the band’s Facebook page said: “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.”

Television presenter Gillian McKeith said: “Sad news. RIP thank you for the music…and the Shang-a-Lang @LesMcKeownUK #ByeByeBab.”

Newsreader India Willoughby said: “65 way too young these days. Very sad news about #LesMcKeown. Super-catchy songs. Remember them being everywhere – Look-In, Magpie, the news.”

Former home secretary Jacqui Smith also paid tribute.

She 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.”

Boxer Frank Bruno wrote: “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.”

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”.

Bay City Rollers anthology
Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown greets fans (Yui Mok/PA)

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.

The news comes after bassist Alan Longmuir died aged 70 in the summer of 2018.

Music – Sun Television Awards – Hilton Hotel – 1975
The Bay City Rollers in 1975 (PA)

Mitchell, who was from Northern Ireland, was the first band member born outside of Edinburgh, but left after seven months.

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