Les McKeowncropaig RIP

15 05 2021

While Bay City Rollers fans across the globe mourn the passing of tartan-flared pop icon Les McKeown, Stornoway’s ageing 70s teenyboppers were saddened to hear of the death the same day of his Leodhasach cousin. 

Like his better known mainland relation, Les McKeowncropaig was a man who experienced a rollercoaster 70s teen pop career of dizzying highs and crashing lows, except for the high bits.

Born in a Vatisker black house in 1955, McKeowncropaig displayed a singular lack of musical talent from an early age. This made him an ideal candidate to be in a boy band, and in 1973 he was recruited into Outend Coll no-hopers the Broadbay City Rollers, replacing founding singer Gordon “Commongrazings” Clerk.

The other band members were Stuart “Woody” Expressparcels, Balallan Lochsmoor and Eric Waulkner. After Ballalan Lochsmoor left, he was replaced briefly by Ian Mitchellsgarage

The band were managed by dodgy Airidhbhruach businessman and frequently convicted  sheep-molester Tormod “Tam” Pay-tòin.

Among his many business interests, Pay-tòin ran a textile recycling company that collected tweed scraps from local mills and weavers, and so he decided to use the band to promote his company by sticking bits of fuidheags onto their flared boiler suits and platform wellies.

The band’s initial brown drab herringbone look failed to capture the public imagination. It was only after Pay-tòin scavenged a reject batch of radioactive glow-in-the-dark Macleod Dress Modren from the bins round the back of Kenny Sticky’s that the Rollers’ outfits really caught on.

As Rollermania gripped Stornoway (and surrounding area), a string of chart-topping hits followed, including:

Shang-A-Langabhat

Byre Byre, Baby

Summerlove Sustentation

Bennadrove Sensation

Gisla Little Love

Remember (Sha-la-Laxdale)

All of Mehhh Loves All of Ewes

Not content with local success, the band went on to break America with help from part time lobster fisherman (and head of A-Rizla Records) Cliabh Davis

However, the pressures of non-stop touring, the screaming fans and the 24/6 hounding by relentless paparazzi (the Gazette AND the Oban Times) eventually became too much for McKeowncropaig. After a particularly arduous tour of North Uist in 1978, he left the band and went into a spiral of drink and herring addiction.

When the money earned in the Rollers’ good years ran out, McKeowncropaig took to the road again to fund his lifestyle, playing under a series of names designed to cash in on the Rollers’ name while avoiding lawsuits from Tam Pay-tòin. These included:

 “Les McKeowncropaig’s Original Broadbay City Rollers”, 

“Les McKeowncropaig’s Genuine Bayhead City Rollers – Honest, Cove”

and 

“Les Mckeowncropaig’s Reformed Bayview City Rollers (Continuing)”.

Most of McKeowncropaig’s old bandmates were up to similar dodges; it is said that there are as many Broadbay City Rollers splinter groups out there as there are grains of sand on the Bràighe.

As well as the many factions featuring one or two members of the 70s lineups, there have been quite a few Rollers offshoots over the years with no original members at all. This is particularly prevalent in parts of the world where the band’s popularity has lasted well beyond their heyday, notably in the Far East (of Harris) where well known fakes include:

The Finsbay City Rollers

The Grosebay City Rollers 

The Flodabay City Rollers

And the Lingerabay City Rodels.

McKeowncropaig got back together with the original band in 2015 for a series of reunion shows, and famously sold out Barrowlands nearly as fast as Peat and Diesel.


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