They were the tartan-clad teen idols who captured the hearts of young girls around the world.
But life for the Bay City Rollers – heralded as the ‘biggest group since the Beatles – has been anything but a pop success story in the four decades since they split.
Their collective past has been beset by breakdowns, alcoholism and allegations of sexual abuse.
Yesterday fans of the group were dealt another blow when it was announced frontman Les McKeown had died at the age of 65.
The Scottish vocalist, who helped the group secure worldwide success with songs including Bye Bye Baby, I Only Wanna Be With You and Shang-a-Lang, died suddenly at home.
Now only three of the ‘classic five’ Rollers line-up remain: founding member and drummer Derek Longmuir, 69, guitarist Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood, 64, and songwriter and guitarist Eric Faulkner, 67. The fifth, ‘original Roller’ Alan Longmuir, died in 2018 after contracting a mystery virus on holiday in Mexico.
Heartthrob Ian Mitchell, who briefly replaced Alan in the band, has also died, as has scandal-hit manager Tam Paton, dubbed ‘the sixth Roller’, who oversaw the band’s rise to international stardom.
They found success in the UK and Japan – and even broke the US – before their fortunes waned and they parted ways.
The Rollers’ last show together was in 1982 and ended with them brawling onstage. In the ensuing decades, the band have claimed they were swindled out of millions in royalties, with some of the members taking action against their old label Arista Records in the US courts.
Here, FEMAIL reveals what happened to the Rollers and Paton in the decades since – from failed reunions to hospital careers.
Life for the Bay City Rollers has been anything but a pop success story in the four decades since the collapse of the band, who were heralded as the ‘biggest group since the Beatles’
FOUNDING MEMBER AND ‘ORIGINAL ROLLER’, DIED IN JULY 2018, AGED 70
Described by many as ‘the original Roller’, bassist Alan Longmuir founded the group in 1966. He died in 2018 after contracting a mystery virus in Mexico. Pictured, in 1975 (left) and 2015
Longmuir spearheaded a reunion of three of the classic Bay City Rollers in 2015. Pictured, Alan Longmuir, Les McKeown and Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood promoting the reunion
Described by many as ‘the original Roller’, bassist Alan Longmuir founded the group in 1966.
Then known as the Saxons, Alan, 17, was joined by his brother Derek, who remained the group’s drummer, as well as cousin Neil Porteous, classmate Gordon ‘Nobby’ Clarke and Dave Pettigrew, all of whom would leave the group before they hit the big time.
The Bay City Rollers were one of the first boy-bands, a classic of the genre whose appeal and success – including two No 1 hits in America – was immense.
A bunch of bantam-weight, working-class kids from Edinburgh, they burst on to the scene.
In 1976, at the height of the band’s popularity, co-founder Alan was replaced by rhythm guitarist Ian Mitchell, a man ten years his junior, who would in turn make way for Pat McGlynn.
In 1977, Alan released a solo record, I’m Confessing, which peaked at number 44 in Australia.
Alan returned to the group in 1978 following McGlynn’s departure, with manager Paton believing he would be a mature, stabilising influence on a band already past their prime.
Then known as the Saxons, Alan, 17, was joined by his brother Derek, who remained the group’s drummer, as well as cousin Neil Porteous, classmate Gordon ‘Nobby’ Clarke and Dave Pettigrew, all of whom would leave the group before they hit the big time. Pictured, in 1977
Alan Longmuir on concert in Glasgow in 2015 during the Bay City Rollers’ reunion tour
After the band split for good in the early 1980s, Alan returned to his job as a plumber, having been an apprentice before fame took hold.
Though he left the band with some money (at one point, he had six cars, a sizeable farm and a ‘load of horses’), within a few years he was broke.
He said in a 2015 interview: ‘One minute I was doing the Hollywood thing, going round to Britt Ekland’s for tea, then it was all over and I was doing rounds in my little van, like Postman Pat.’
Longmuir also admitted to making some bad financial decisions, including buying a Scottish hotel in a business venture that ‘didn’t work out’.
From 2000 until retirement, he was a bylaws inspector and then claimed a modest pension.
In 2015, he joined McKeown and Wood for a Bay City Rollers reunion tour that saw them play to crowds of screaming fans and launch a national press tour.
Although there were plans for a new album and tour dates in the US and Japan, the group split once again in 2016, with Scotland’s T In The Park Festival their last.
In 2014 Longmuir debuted his popular Edinburgh fringe show, a music-and-memories production, and returned to the festival every year until his death in 2018.
Alan died at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert ‘surrounded by loved ones’ two weeks after being flown home from Mexico where he had contracted a mystery virus while on holiday with his wife, Eileen. Pictured, in a photo shared on Twitter shortly before his death
Mourners carry Longmuir’s coffin during his funeral in July 2018. At the time of his death, his family released a statement saying he simply saw himself as a ‘plumber who got lucky’
He also faced serious health issues, surviving two heart attacks and a stroke before dying in July 2018 at the age of 70.
Alan died at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert ‘surrounded by loved ones’ two weeks after being flown home from Mexico where he had contracted a mystery virus while on holiday with his wife, Eileen.
He was survived by his wife, Eileen (nee Rankin), whom he married in 1998, his son, Jordan, from his first marriage, to Jan, which ended in divorce, two stepsons, Kyle and Nik, and his siblings, Derek, Betty and Alice.
Alan shared a son, Jordon, with his first wife Jan Longmuir. The couple were married from 1985 to 1990. He married Eileen in 1998 and he became close to her two sons.
At the time of his death, the family released a statement saying: ‘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”. However, we are the lucky ones; the ones that were lucky enough to have Alan as part of our lives.’
STUART ‘WOODY’ WOOD
Only 15 when he joined the band, Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood, now 64, was the youngest Roller – and barely knew how to play guitar. Pictured, Wood in the 1970s (left) and in September 2015
Only 15 when he joined the band, Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood, now 64, was the youngest Roller – and barely knew how to play guitar.
‘I was gobsmacked,’ he once recalled. ‘I’d only been playing guitar just over a year and probably knew about five or six chords.’
Despite his youth, he was key to the band’s success and formed one-fifth of the band’s classic line-up.
At the height of their fame in 1975, Woody was left in hospital after a stage invasion following a performance at London Weekend Television.
Just a few months later, cracks started to show. Alan Longmuir left in 1976 and the band finally imploded four years after McKeown left in 1978 and bitter battles over the money they should have been paid dragged on for years.
The band parted ways when Wood was barely in his 20s.
‘I continued playing, although I went from sell-out concerts in massive venues to tiny clubs and pubs,’ he said in 2019. ‘It was a case of keeping my fingers crossed that I could secure other gigs. It was a worry but my love of music got me through.
‘The Eighties were worrying, partly because money wasn’t around like it had been during the previous decade. I was gigging for a living, and the money I earned had to see me through the following week.
Wood (left) joined McKeown and Longmuir for a reunion in 2015 but the glory was short lived
‘I’d look ahead to the next month and see gaps in the diary, which was worrying, but, ultimately, gigs always came along.’
Together with Duncan Faure, who took over as singer after Les left, Wood set up a new group and spent three years in LA. When that band split, he moved to South Africa for five years and formed The Passengers alongside Neil Solomon.
‘I was also writing and producing music, which I’m still doing,’ he said.
He later returned to Edinburgh where he dabbled as a producer, guiding 2006 X Factor duo The MacDonald Brothers to a No. 1 record on the Scottish charts and a top 20 UK hit.
In 2003, Wood founded Edinburgh music label The Music Kitchen with Gordon Campbell.
His successes have included producing Virgin Records’ ‘The Lone Piper’ and ‘Scottish Moods’ which were certified Platinum and Gold in sales.
Wood also performs with his own version of the Bay City Rollers, which promises audiences the ‘same essence of the original band that the world knew and loved’.
As of 2019, Wood was living in Edinburgh with his wife, Denise.
On hearing of McKeown’s death, 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 Keiko his wife and his son Jubei and all the Bay City Rollers Fans. It’s a sad day in Bay City Roller history.’
He said: ‘Les was a great performer on stage and he was full of energy. I was 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 and he had lots of energy on stage. It is a shock.’
GUITARIST AND SONGWRITER, NOW 67. REMAINED IN MUSIC
Eric Faulkner, now 67, joined the Bay City Rollers in 1972 as their guitarist after a short stint with another group, KIP (previously known as Sugar). Pictured, in 1974 (left) and recently
Another Edinburgh native, Eric Faulkner, now 67, grew up playing a number of instruments including the viola, violin, mandolin, bass and keyboards.
He joined the Bay City Rollers in 1972 as their guitarist after a short stint with another group, KIP (previously known as Sugar).
While other members came and went, Faulkner remained a mainstay of the group until their split in the early 1980s and played a crucial role co-writing more than half of their songs including the hits Money Honey and Love Me Like I Love You.
Unlike other Rollers, Faulkner has remained in music in the decades since, although he has graduated from teen idol to Left-wing folk artist.
In the 1990s, a decade after the band’s split, he was lead singer of a reformed version of the Bay City Rollers, which also featured Alan Longmuir, Stuart Wood and singer Karen ‘Kass’ Prosser.
In February 2015, Faulkner ‘almost died’ after contracting viral encephalitis. Pictured, in a recent YouTube video
He also toured with his own band, The Eric Faulkner Co-operative that he founded with Kass.
In the 2000s, Faulkner performed with the band 3 Men & Black and took to the stage as a solo artist at Glastonbury 2007, where he performed in support of Labour MP Tony Benn.
That same year, Faulkner and five other members of the Bay City Rollers filed a lawsuit against Arista Records over unpaid royalties.
However a long-standing rift with McKeown meant he did not take part in the band’s 2015 reunion.
‘Eric thought he was in charge of things,’ McKeown said at the time. ‘I thought I was in charge of things. I was pushing him around, he was pushing me around saying, “You’ve got to do this.” I didn’t want to do that.’
There was another reason Faulkner didn’t join the tour.
In February 2015, Faulkner ‘almost died’ after contracting viral encephalitis. Although he recovered, he was left with post encephalitic syndrome and has raised money for others suffering with the condition.
At one point it was feared the illness would force Faulkner to give up his music career but he wrote and recorded new music in 2017 and returned to the stage in 2018 at the Heart of Hawick Music Festival.
It is not known where Faulkner lives today. Music journalists have noted how he has ‘disappeared’.
FOUNDING MEMBER, NOW 69
Ian’s younger brother, Derek, now 69, was also just a teenager when the band first formed in the 1960s. Pictured, in 1975 (left) and outside court in Edinburgh in 2000
Ian’s younger brother, Derek, now 69, was also just a teenager when the band first formed in the 1960s.
He retired from the music industry in the early 1980s and in 1990 started training to become a nurse after helping out voluntarily at the Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh. He qualified in 1993 to work at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
In 2000 Longmuir was sentenced to 300 hours community service after admitting possessing child abuse images.
Serious crime squad officers found the material on computers, videos and floppy disks after a raid on Derek Longmuir’s home in September 1998 following a tip-off.
Of the 153 videos seized, 22 contained child abuse material. Some 1,000 images were recovered out of the 73 floppy disks confiscated, and some of these showed sex involving children.
Longmuir claimed they belonged to an American friend but pleaded guilty, saying at the time he wanted to avoid a ‘media circus’.
Due to the controversy, he was fired from his job at the Infirmary but in 2001 was allowed to resume his career as a psychiatric nurse.
Derek, who keeps a low profile, has declined to be interviewed alongside his brother and former bandmates for recent features.
But in 2005, when asked if fame was ‘traumatising’, he said: ‘don’t think it’s the fame, but some of the experiences of just how ruthless the business can be. It is definitely something you have to recover from.’
Les, who passed away at his home aged 65, was the singer at the height of the Rollers’ fame where they sold 100million records and millions of teenagers had the band’s posters on their walls. Pictured, in 1975 (left) and in 2015 (right)
Les, who passed away at his home aged 65, was the singer at the height of the Rollers’ fame where they sold 100million records and millions of teenagers had the band’s posters on their walls.
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.
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.
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
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.
By 1978, the rest of the band had become convinced that McKeown was treating them as a backing band.
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.
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
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.
McKeown met his future wife Peko Keiko in 1978 and they married soon afterwards. She always forgave him for his vices including affairs with at least 12 male partners and numerous women
By his own admission, Les said in an interview before his death: ‘She could have kicked my a**e right out the door a long time ago.’
The Scottish vocalist (pictured in 2019) fronted the band during their 1970s heyday and helped them secure worldwide success with their upbeat pop songs
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.
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’.
BASSIST FOR SEVEN MONTHS, DIED IN SEPTEMBER 2020, AGED 62
Ian Mitchell made a lasting impact with the Bay City Rollers, having recorded famous cover ‘I Only Want to be With You during his short spell with the band. Pictured in 1976 (left) and 1997
The first band member from outside Edinburgh to join the Rollers, Northern Irish Ian was brought in in 1976, at the age of 17, to replace bassist Alan Longmuir.
He was only with the band for seven months before leaving but Mitchell made a lasting impression on the group.
Mitchell played bass on the Rollers 1976 album Dedication and was part of the line-up when they found success with the cover of Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want To Be With You. The track reached number 12 on the US charts.
He left in late 1976 as the band’s popularity began to dwindle and was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn.
Mitchell 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.’
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’
The star went on to form the band Rosetta Stone. Backed by the Bay City Rollers’ manager Tom Patron, the Northern Irish band had successful tours of Japan and Thailand had three singles, including a covers of 1960s Cream song, ‘Sunshine of Your Love’.
How Ian Mitchell was name-dropped on Friends
Despite his short seven month spell with the Bay City Rollers, Ian Mitchell made quite an impact.
During his time in the band, they recorded the album ‘Dedication’, as well as the hit cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want to be With You’.
But Mitchell also earned a mention in popular American sitcom, Friends, in a 2001 episode when Monica and Chandler get engaged.
Mitchell also earned a mention in popular American sitcom, Friends, in a 2001 episode when Monica (pictured right) 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.’
Speaking about his mention to The Sun in 2016, Mitchell said: ‘I fell off my chair when I saw that.’
But the band were much less successful back at home and in the United States. They signed with Private Stock Records and released their first album, Rock Pictures, in May 1978 to little success.
Mitchell later quit in 1979, before launching the Ian Mitchell Band that same year.
Again, the band toured Asia and parts of Europe to much success, but found little recognition in the UK, reportedly playing just one gig, in a pub outside of London.
Mitchell was later involved in reunions for both the Bay City Rollers and Rosetta Stone.
The musician, who died in September 2020 at the age of 62, spent his later years in the US and carved out a life as a computer programmer and motivational speaker in California.
In 2001 he had a ‘pinch me’ moment when he was mentioned in an episode of Friends.
Discussing wedding plans, Monica (Courteney Cox) tells Chandler (Matthew Perry): ‘I want a string quartet for the processional, a jazz trio for cocktails and The Bay City Rollers for dancing.’
He responds: ‘You couldn’t get The Rollers anyway as Ian doesn’t play any more.’
Though he ‘became an American’ and died in Los Angeles, Mitchell was still fond of his hometown, the small Northern Irish town of Downpatrick.
Speaking in 2014 to local newspaper the Down Recorder, he said: ‘I’m proud to be a part of this town’s heritage.
‘When I was born, it was but a small town, and I was but a poor kid living on Ardmeen Green, playing amongst the ruins that the ancient monks left behind.
‘I have known fame and some fortune. I have travelled the world and made some of the finest friends a man can have, and have had the pleasure of knowing some of the loveliest women around.
‘I became an American, a proud one at that, and am still an Irishman at heart, and a very lucky Irishman, indeed. And my life, well, all of it, started in a small place called… Downpatrick.’
GORDON ‘NOBBY’ CLARK
FOUNDING MEMBER REPLACED BY McKEOWN
A founding member of the Bay City Rollers, ‘Nobby’ went to school with the Longmuir brothers. Pictured, in 1972 (left) and a photo taken from his website (right)
A founding member of the Bay City Rollers, ‘Nobby’ went to school with the Longmuir brothers.
He performed lead vocals on the band’s early hits but was replaced by McKeown in 1973.
He pursued a solo career and had some success, particularly in France, where he found fame following an appearance on the Claude Francois 1975 Christmas Special.
In 1980 he composed the film score for French film The Big Sky.
In the following years, Clark remained in the entertainment industry, managing a recording studio and appearing in a handful of small comedy musicals including I’m Sorry The Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have To Spend The Night and A Slice Of Saturday Night.
Clark has released a few solo albums including If Only and Going Home, which were produced by David Paton of 1970s band Pilot, who achieved success with hit song Magic.
The musician, who is also an environmental advocate, spoke of his regret at not reconciling with McKeown before his death.
He told the Daily Record: ‘Les and I had our differences and we had a confrontation in a court case in New York and it was a horrible situation where we should have all got together and we could have sorted it out.’
He added: ‘He was great performer and entertainer no doubt about it. He was great with the fans on stage and could put on a very good show – and I always said Shang-a-Lang was one of best pop songs ever written and I still say that.’
MANAGER AND ‘SIXTH ROLLER’. DIED IN APRIL 2009, AGED 70
The band claims Paton introduced them to drugs, drip-feeding them a diet of amphetamines and creating what McKeown described as a ‘wee drug culture’. Pictured, Paton in 1976 (left) and in 2006 (right). He died in 2009 at the age of 70
Paton, the son of a potato merchant, was born in the small town of Prestonpans, near Edinburgh.
He was the resident bandleader at the Edinburgh Palais when he first came across the fledgling Rollers, then known as the Saxons, and assumed the role of their manager as their fame grew.
The band claims Paton introduced them to drugs, drip-feeding them a diet of amphetamines and creating what McKeown described as a ‘wee drug culture’.
‘When we got a wee bit tired, he’d give us amphetamines,’ he said in 2005. ‘He’d keep us awake with speed, black bombers. You end up almost showing off to each other what stupid drugs you’ve taken.’
In 1982, Paton served one year of a three-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to molesting boys over a three-year period. Pictured, in 2003
Paton, who died of a heart attack in 2009, also faced allegations of sexual assault.
The guitarist Pat McGlynn claimed that he had been the subject of an attempted rape by Paton in Australia in 1977, but the police could not gather sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.
McKeown claimed in a 2015 interview that Paton had also helped another man force himself on McKeown while he was high on Quaaludes.
‘It was hell,’ McKeown said. ‘But we were just daft wee laddies, following someone.’
In 1982, Paton served one year of a three-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to molesting boys over a three-year period.
Paton, who became a successful property developer in Edinburgh, was questioned over child sex abuse allegations in 2003 but the investigation was later dropped.
At the time he said: ‘I was in my house at the time, because really since all this started I have not been able to go out.
‘Last week I went through to a restaurant in Falkirk where I was meeting my lawyer and my accountant. When I walked in the manager came running up to me and asked me to wait for a few moments.
‘When he came back he asked if I was Tam Paton. I told him I was and he said, “We don’t want your kind in here. Please leave immediately and remove your vehicle from the car park”. That is the kind of reaction I have been getting because of this.’
The following year he was fined £200,000 after admitting to supplying cannabis.
He denied two charges of supplying the class A drugs cocaine and ecstasy. Paton was told in view of his age and poor health he would not face jail but would incur a substantial financial penalty as punishment.
Paton, who never married, survived two heart attacks and a stroke before dying of a suspected heart attack in April 2009, at the age of 70.