Troubled life of Bay City Rollers heartthrob Les McKeown, 65

Troubled life of Bay City Rollers heartthrob Les McKeown, 65, who battled drink and drug addictions and had secret flings with men and women during decades-long marriage to ‘incredible’ wife

  • The family of Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown have announced that he passed away at his home aged 65
  • Scottish vocalist who was born in Edinburgh fronted the iconic pop rock band during their 1970s heyday
  • Friends and fans paid tribute to the iconic frontman who helped secure band worldwide success
  • But after leaving the ban McKeown admitted that he was secretly gay and had affairs with at least 12 men
  • His wife Peko, who he met in 1978, stood by him despite drink and drugs turning him into a ‘complete b***ard’

Les McKeown’s ‘incredible’ wife is grieving his sudden death today after an extraordinary life together and a decades-long troubled marriage that endured to the end despite his battle with drink, drugs and dozens of affairs with men and women. 

Peko Keiko, who met the Scottish Bay City Rollers singer in 1978 and married each other soon after, always forgave him for his vices including affairs with at least 12 male partners and numerous women.

By his own admission, Les, who died yesterday aged 65, said in an interview before his death: ‘She could have kicked my a**e right out the door a long time ago.’ 

His marriage was on the rocks because of his philandering and he would drink two bottles of Wild Turkey bourbon a day along with piles of cocaine that the singer admitted turned him into ‘a complete b*****d’ for many years. She stood by him while caring for their son, Jubei, and then helped her husband beat drink and drugs. 

Many said he was cursed after he ran over and killed an elderly neighbour, Euphemia Clunie in 1975, only paying a £150 fine and getting a year’s ban from driving. He was later accused – but cleared – of wounding a teenage fan shot in the forehead with an air rifle outside his home.

Speaking around ten years ago Les had said he was secretly gay for 30 years, but loyal Peko had always forgiven him and stayed with him despite dwindling money, which had seen them living together in an east London flat. He always maintained they should have lived on a Scottish estate with a £20million – but insisted he was ripped off in a royalties row.

He said in 2009: ‘Peko’s an incredible woman. There have been times when she’s forgiven me for cheating with other women. This gay thing has been really hard for her to confront. She has been a big rock holding the family together and I’m lucky to have her.’  

He added: ‘God know why she’s put up with me for this long, she could have kicked my a**e right out the door a long time ago.’ He continued ‘We went through a bit of a rough patch but then we got back together again and everything is good now, I don’t want to change things round in my life now. I met her in 1978 and we’ve been going out ever since’.

And describing how Peko saved him and got him into rehab, he said in 2015: ‘The wife got to me just in the nick of time. I got an offer of a rehabilitation programme at the Passages Centre in California and I didn’t want to refuse it – although, I didn’t really want to go, either. I was supposed to be there for two weeks and stayed for four months. When I came back from it I said sorry to everyone I had p***** off’.

The late former Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown (pictured with his wife Peko Keiko) outside court in 2005 after being accused of conspiring to sell half a kilo of cocaine. He was cleared but admitted he was a heavy user of the drug

In a message on social media, the singer’s wife and son expressed their ‘profound sadness’ as they announced his passing yesterday

Les (top was parachuted in aged 18 to join the band after Nobby Clark left. By 1978, the rest of the band had become convinced that McKeown was treating them as a backing band, once being kicked off stage after standing in front of bandmates during solos

Les, passed away at his home aged 65, had first met at the height of the Rollers’ fame where they sold 100million records and millions of teenagers had the band’s posters on their walls in the 1970s.

But by the end of the decade the band was in ruins, wrecked by fights, drugs and alcohol, with pin-up McKeown only drafted in into the Bay City Rollers at the last minute to replace Nobby Clark, soon becoming the biggest star, causing rancour with his bandmates.  

The Scottish vocalist (pictured in 2019) fronted the band during their 1970s heyday and helped them secure worldwide success with their upbeat pop songs. He also kicked drink and drugs and was healthy again, he said

The band had a string of monster-selling singles followed, including Bye Bye Baby and Give a Little Love, both of which hit number one in 1975. 

They were mobbed by fans everywhere they went; their tartan-trimmed flares were the fashion statement of the year.

And McKeown – parachuted into the band at the luckiest possible moment aged 18 -was the most lusted after pin-up of the lot. By 22 he had left.

It was in 1975 that he drove his car into 76-year-old Euphemia Clunie in Edinburgh: enter the curse. It was around this time, too, that a 15-year-old fan called Margaret Ness was given stitches after being shot in the forehead with an airgun while sitting on the wall outside McKeown’s home in Torphichen, West Lothian.

McKeown was charged with the shooting but later cleared. His death by reckless driving trial, meanwhile, was one of the most macabre showbiz spectacles of 1976. Hordes of hysterical girls attended – and screamed with delight as McKeown was cleared of causing the pensioner’s death.

He was found guilty of the lesser charge of driving recklessly and dangerously. The punishment was a £150 fine and a year-long ban.

The Rollers never hit the top spot again. Indeed, ominously, each successive single seemed to perform more disappointingly than the last. By the time You Made Me Believe in Magic scraped in at number 34 in 1977, Rollermania was clearly over.

But the curse was not finished yet. Nowhere near it. 

By 1978, the rest of the band had become convinced that McKeown was treating them as a backing band.

According to guitarist Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood, the singer insisted on having his own dressing room and bouncers, and was an insatiable spotlight-hogger.

‘Every night he would stand right in front of me during my sax solo and it was becoming a bit tiresome,’ Wood told the Mail in 2007. ‘It was the time when everything was becoming ridiculous.

‘We just kind of all hated each other, well, Les in particular. So, after a few nights of this, I just booted him from behind.’

Keiko (pictured with Les in 2006) forgave him for his many affairs, with Les admitting he had been a ‘complete b***ard’ due to drink and drugs

Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown (pictured in 1977) has died at his home suddenly at the age of 65, his family announced today

Les McKeown (pictured second from left) was born in Edinburgh to Irish parents and was known for his romantic lyrics and Tartan-clad fashion

Propelled by Wood’s heavy platform shoe, McKeown was sent sprawling into the audience while both security teams creased with laughter, delaying his rescue by several minutes.

Wood said: ‘He didn’t say a thing to me afterwards, but he never stood in front of me again, either.

‘I don’t actually know if he knows it was me who pushed him in.’

McKeown left the Rollers shortly after that and, exhausted and dispirited, the remaining band members finally threw in the towel in 1981, and the band, aside from a few reunion gigs, never hit any heights again.

He drank and took drugs for decades more. Around ten years ago he said he was finally clean and sober after years of abusing his body.  

He was a long-term abuser of cocaine. Indeed, in 2006 he was charged with being involved in a conspiracy to supply nearly half a kilo of the drug. He was acquitted in court, but admitted he was a user. He drank to excess, too. In 2005 he admitted driving without insurance while more than twice the legal limit after pranging his car into a traffic island. That earned him another driving ban and a fine of £1,000.

This time there were no screaming teenagers in court.   

The Scottish vocalist, who helped the tartan-clad group secure worldwide success with songs including Bye Bye Baby, I Only Wanna Be With You and Shang-a-Lang, died suddenly at home.  

Yesterday the singer’s family expressed their ‘profound sadness’ as they announced his passing on the band’s Facebook page. A cause of death has yet to be declared.

A statement read: ‘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. 

‘If you would like to remember Leslie, please make a donation in his name to: [details] We thank you and ask for privacy after the shock of our profound loss. Thank you. Keiko and Jubei McKeown’    

Born in Edinburgh to Irish parents, McKeown, who was known for his romantic lyrics and Tartan-clad fashion, first joined a band called Threshold before going on to join the Bay City Rollers, in late 1973 at the age of 18. 

He replaced founding lead singer Gordon ‘Nobby’ Clark, who had become disillusioned with the band’s musical direction.

His arrival coincided with the Bay City Rollers’ ascent to fame and McKeown remained lead vocalist until 1978, appearing on Top Of The Pops on a number of occasions.

The band, who in the press were heralded as the ‘biggest group since the Beatles’, released their first single Keep On Dancing in 1971 and had other two number one hits in 1975 with Bye Bye Baby and Give A Little Love. 

They went on to gather a large teenage following and sold more than 100 million records, gaining popularity with their distinctive tartan outfits and upbeat pop songs like Shang-a-Lang. 

Alongside McKeown and guitarist Alan Longmuir, the classic line-up also included guitarists Eric Faulkner and Stuart Wood and Longmuir’s younger brother Derek on drums.  

Despite leaving the band in 1978, McKeown decided to reunite for a comeback tour with Longmuir and Wood in 2015 –  with tickets selling out in minutes. 

Today former manager John MacLaughlan said the pop star, who also went on to have a successful solo career, had been hoping to get back on the stage again and was ‘one of the hardest working men in the music industry’.

He told The Daily Record: ‘I’m very sad and shocked and so is Peko, his wife.

‘She is heartbroken and called me from Les’ phone with the news. I picked up and thought it was Les wanting a chat.

‘I’m still in shock right now, I spoke to him last week and he was on great form and happy about life and happy to book his tour. We were friends as well as working partners.

‘He was hoping to get it all going again and he was one of the hardest working men in the music industry.

‘We got on so great and he was great fun to be around. He had his moments but was always a good laugh to be around and a great performer. 

He added: ‘He was a great singer. The Bay City Rollers were the biggest band in the world in the mid seventies and beyond. 

‘They had their own TV show and Rollermania. They flew the flag for Scotland and made me think as a wee boy watching the telly you can be a popstar and in music and they meant a lot to me getting involved in music and the industry and the clothes and the hair and image were brilliant and the gang mentality was amazing.

‘I’m honoured to have worked with them.’   

Formed at the end of the 1960s, the Bay City Rollers enjoyed huge success at home and abroad and were heralded as ‘biggest group since the Beatles’

The band, who had massive teenage following and sold more than 100 million records, gained popularity with their distinctive tartan outfits and upbeat pop songs

Guitarist Stuart Woody Wood said: ‘I am upset and shocked to hear this very sad news.

‘Les and I had our differences over the years but even though we had disagreements we are sending our heartfelt condolences to Peko wife and his son Jubie and all the Bay City Rollers Fans. It’s a sad day in Bay City Roller history. 

‘He was a great performance on stage and he was full of energy. Iwas roadying when Les first came into the band and I saw his first gig when he took over from Nobby Clark and injected new life into the band.

‘I was fifteen and he was seventeen. I joined properly when I turned sixteen in 74. He had lots of energy on stage.’

At the height of their fame in 1975, the iconic pop group saw their single Saturday Night reach No 1 in the US charts.

However in 1975, as his fame continued to rise, McKeown was fined £100 and banned from driving for a year after he struck and killed elderly neighbour Euphemia Clunie in Edinburgh.

Despite some witnesses claiming the singer was driving too fast, McKeown always insisted he was driving at 40mph.  

In 2005, the singer was also banned from driving for 18 months and fined £1,000 after he was found to have been driving while drunk, over twice the legal limit.

Later that year McKeown revealed he had been struggling with alcoholism.

He told The Mirror: ‘For six years from 2002 I was falling down a couple of bottles of whisky a day. I wasn’t really wanting help, I was quite happy getting drunk all the time.’ 

In 2006, the frontman, along with former Rollers guitarist Patrick McGlynn and financial systems analyst Alistair Murray, was acquitted of conspiring to supply cocaine, after a two-week trial at Basildon Crown Court.

Last year, McKeown, who went on to form the pop group Egotrip after he left the Bay City Rollers, described how lockdown had allowed him to spend more time with his wife Peko and son Jubei. 

He told The Edinburgh Evening News: ‘Me and the wife and the son have been out in the garden growing all sorts of things – my favourite things just now are nasturtiums, they’re edible and I munch lots of nasturtiums flowers and leaves with my salads.’

McKeown’s passing comes after bassist Ian Mitchell, who joined the band in 1976 when he was 17 to replace founding member Longmuir, died aged 62 in September 2020.

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

The band was formed by Alan Longmuir, who died in 2018, with his younger brother Derek – who was the band’s drummer

While Mitchell was with the Rollers, they released the 1976 album Dedication and a cover version of Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want to Be With You.

But he found tensions within the band hard to cope with and departed that December, to be replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn.

While with the Bay City Rollers Mitchell recorded one album, Dedication, in 1976, and had a hit cover of the Dusty Springfield song ‘I Only Want to be With You.’ The track reached number 12 on the US charts.

He also earned a mention in Friends in a 2001 episode when Monica and Chandler get engaged. 

In it, Monica, played by Courteney Cox, said: ‘I want a string quartet for the processional, a jazz trio for cocktails and The Bay City Rollers for dancing.’

Chandler, played by Matthew Perry, then responded: ‘You couldn’t get The Rollers anyway as Ian doesn’t play any more.’

He left in late 1976 as the band’s popularity began to dwindle and was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn.

Mitchell, who went on to form the band Rosetta Stone, later blamed infighting in the band for his decision to leave. He said: ‘I had to get out before I put my head in the gas oven.’ 

In 2018, the band’s bassist Alan Longmuir, who co-founded the Scottish pop group with his brother Derek, died at the age of 70.

The 70-year-old musician died in hospital after contracting an illness in Mexico while on holiday with wife Eileen.

He was flown back to Scotland and placed into care at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Falkirk, where he spent three days fighting for his life before succumbing the the virus. 

In 2002, the band’s drummer Derek Longmuir, who founded the group with his brother Alan, was sentenced to 300 hours of community service at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for possessing child pornography.

He pleaded guilty to the offence, but maintained the offending materials did not belong to him and were instead left behind by an acquaintance. 

On the official Bass City Rollers Twitter page today a message read: ‘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’. 

Meanwhile former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith 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.’

Elsewhere boxer Frank Bruno wrote: ‘RIPLesMcKeown Bay City Rollers frontman 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.’

 

Following the announcement of his death, tributes have been paid to the former frontman of the Bay City Rollers on social media

The other key members of the iconic band Bay City Rollers

Faulkner joined the Bay City Rollers in 1972 as their guitarist and was one of the main faces of the band over the years

Eric Faulkner

Faulkner joined the Bay City Rollers in 1972 as their guitarist and was one of the main faces of the band over the years.  

He co-wrote more than half of the recorded catalogue of Rollers songs including the ‘Money Honey’ and ‘Love Me Like I Love You’.

Faulkner also worked on a reformed version of the band in the 1990s.

In the last 10 years Faulkner has appeared at a number of music festivals including Parkfest and The Edinburgh Guitar and Music Festival. 

According to a book by fellow Bay City Rollers star, Alan Longmuir, Faulkner had a major health scare in 2015 when he developed viral encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain. 

In recent years, Faulkner has written his own folk music, which he posts for free, with an option of a donation, on his website. 

 

Stuart Wood

Stuart Wood, known as ‘Woody’, was a guitarist in the Bay City Rollers

Stuart Wood, known as ‘Woody’, was a guitarist in the Bay City Rollers. He joined in 1974, helping the band to make their breakthrough.

After his success with The Rollers, Wood moved to South Africa and performed in a band called The Passengers, which became a chart topping success throughout the 1980s.

He later returned home to Scotland and in 2007 produced the debut album for Scottish folk duo the MacDonald Brothers.

Wood is still said to be active in music.

In a 2019 interview with the Sun, he said his biggest regret was not getting one last Saturday Night out with his late bandmate Alan Longmuir. 

He said:’We had arranged to meet up but one thing led to another and we never got the chance.’  

 

Alan Longmuir

Alan Longmuir was one of the founding members of the Bay City Rollers, along with his younger brother Derek

Alan Longmuir was one of the founding members of the Bay City Rollers, along with his younger brother Derek. He played bass guitar.

In 1976, at the height of the band’s popularity, Longmuir left and was replaced by Ian Mitchell, who was later replaced by Patrick McGlynn.

Longmuir returned to the group in 1978 following McGlynn’s departure.

He later became the owner of Castle Campbell Hotel in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, but suffered two heart attacks and a stroke.

Longmuir died, aged 70, in hospital in Scotland after contracting an illness while on holiday in Mexico.

The musician, who was born in Edinburgh, died at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert ‘surrounded by loved ones’ two weeks after being flown home.  

Following his death his family said: ‘He brought so much love and kindness to everyone he met, and he leaves a huge hole in our family. He would humbly say he was ‘just a plumber from Edinburgh who got lucky’.  

 

Derek Longmuir

Derek Longmuir was one of the founding members and the drummer for the Bay City Rollers

Derek Longmuir was one of the founding members and the drummer for the Bay City Rollers.

He started the pop group  with his brother, Alan before retiring from music in the 1980s and training in nursing.

The drummer qualified in 1993 to work at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. 

However in 2000, the drummer was sentenced to 300 hours of community service after admitting possessing child pornography.

When police raided Longmuir’s home they found child pornography on videos, photographs and computer images.

The court heard how Lothian and Borders Police serious crime squad officers found the material after a tip-off. 

Twenty-two videos out of 153 seized and six projector reels contained child porn. 

Longmuir pleaded guilty to the offence, but maintained the offending materials did not belong to him and were instead left behind by an acquaintance.   

 

Ian Mitchell    

Ian Mitchell (pictured in 1976) joined the band, aged 17, replacing bassist Alan Longmuir – but left after seven months with the Scots group, dubbed as ‘tartan teen sensations’.

Ian joined the band in 1976, aged 17, replacing bassist Alan Longmuir – but left after seven months with the Scots group.

However the musician made a lasting impact with the band, with whom he recorded the hit Dusty Springfield cover ‘I Only Want to be With You’.  

While with the Bay City Rollers Ian recorded one album, Dedication, in 1976, and had a hit cover of the Dusty Springfield song ‘I Only Want to be With You.’

The track reached number 12 on the US charts.

He also earned a mention in Friends in a 2001 episode when Monica and Chandler get engaged.

In it, Monica, played by Courteney Cox, says: ‘I want a string quartet for the processional, a jazz trio for cocktails and The Bay City Rollers for dancing.’

 Chandler, played by Matthew Perry, then responds: ‘You couldn’t get The Rollers anyway as Ian doesn’t play any more.’

He left in late 1976 as the band’s popularity began to dwindle and was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn.

 

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