Les McKeown, former lead singer of the Bay City Rollers, dead at 65

Les McKeown, former lead vocalist for the iconic Scottish pop group Bay City Rollers, has died. He was 65.

The late star’s family broke the news of his death in a moving Facebook post on Thursday.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of our lovely husband and father Leslie Richard McKeown,” they wrote, adding that he “died suddenly at home on Tuesday.”

The family didn’t disclose the cause of death, only mentioning that they’re “making arrangements for his funeral and ask for privacy after the shock of our profound loss.”

McKeown was the frontman for the Bay City Rollers during their heyday in the mid-1970s, during which they recorded such mega-hits as “Shang-A-Lang,” “Bye Bye Baby” and “Give a Little Love.”

Scottish pop group the Bay City Rollers, circa 1975, from left: Eric Faulkner, Les McKeown, Alan Longmuir, Stuart "Woody" Wood and Derek Longmuir.
Scottish pop group the Bay City Rollers, circa 1975, from left: Eric Faulkner, Les McKeown, Alan Longmuir, Stuart “Woody” Wood and Derek Longmuir.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Edinburgh teenagers exploded onto the US market with their 1974 hit “Saturday Night,” snagging the top spot on the American Billboard chart. Their overseas success even earned them comparisons with The Beatles a decade before.

McKeown left the Rollers in 1978, although in recent years, he took part in a nostalgia tour with ex-bandmates. His distinct vocals in “Bye Bye Baby” and other hits are still recognized by youngsters to this day.

Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers performs at Eventim Apollo on Dec. 14, 2016, in London.
Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers performs in London in 2016.
Brian Rasic/WireImage

The pop-boppers have also collectively sold more than 120 million records worldwide.

“I think we were a breath of fresh air in the ’70s,” the vocalist told the United Kingdom’s Press and Journal in 2016.

He added: “There was nothing complicated about our music — although it’s amazing how many people who used to come to our concerts as teenagers are still coming back with their daughters after all these years, and they’re singing our songs together.”  

Former Bay City Rollers bassist Ian Mitchell, who joined the group in 1976, died last year at age 62, and group co-founder Alan Longmuir passed away at age 70 in 2018.