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What ever happened to the Bay City rollers?

Updated on September 24, 2015

The Bay City Roller Coaster


Recently I went to a garden party. I know that this may sound like a great intro into a Ricky Nelson song but I can assure you that it’s not. What I can promise you, is the tragic story of a band, as tragic as Ricky's own death.

While attending this garden party, a song was played which was very familiar to me. As the song drifted thought the night air, I found myself having no problems singing the words, and yet, for the life of me could not place where I knew the song from, or where I had heard it before. Suddenly in the blink of an eye it all came rushing back to me. I knew the song because I had sung it alone a thousand times in my room as a teenager. The song was "The way I feel tonight" by the Bay City Rollers.

For those of you out there who are too young to remember, The Bay City Roller were heralded as the ‘Biggest group since The Beatles' and one of the most screamed-at teeny-bopper acts of the 1970s". Their song S.a.t.u.r.d.a.y night was played continuously from 1974, when they hit the top of the pops charts, to 1976 when their fame left as quickly as it had arrived.

After leaving the garden party I couldn't seem to get that song out of my head. I started wondering what ever happened to the five lads from Scotland. My curiosity got the best of me, and I spent days doing research on what once had been my childhood idols. For anyone wanting to make a name in the music business, this story is a warning and a must read. In my opinion it reads better than 99% of most fiction novels that I have ever picked up in my lifetime. Mark Twain could not have been more correct when he stated that truth is stranger than fiction. I can honestly not make this stuff up.

What has now come to be known as "The Bay city roller coaster", it is said that through the years, the line-up of the band changed so much that they tally the final count at around 27 members in all. In August of1968 a group named "The Saxons" changed their name to The Bay City Rollers. The Rollers where managed and owned by a man named Tam Paton. While it is indisputable that Paton created the Rollers, the group members claim that he was also largely responsible for destroying them. They compare the band's relationship with Paton to that of a child with an abusive parent.

For two years, everything that the band touched turned to gold. There was a national Bay City Rollers uniform, of which I myself was a proud owner. Tartan scarves dangling from the wrist, Doc Marten Boots, and short spiked haircuts. The female universal anthem was "We want the Rollers!" which could be heard at every venue they played. When their career came to an end, just two short years after it started, it is estimated that the band sold between 70-120 million records. Some thirty five years later however they are still fighting to see any money whatsoever in royalties. It's sad for me to say that these are the good parts of this story. The "boys" now in their fifties and sixties are hard to find these days because they simply do not want to talk about their roller days.


TAM PATON:

In 2004 the group’s manager Tam Paton suffered a stroke after being cleared of child sex abuse allegations and being fined for supplying cannabis. In a separate case, Paton was given a three-year jail sentence in 1982 for gross indecency against two teenage boys. Paton had an interest in young boys which has been described as nothing short of diseased. Paton also disliked woman and called them dirty, smelly fish. Paton who was openly gay died of a suspected heart attack at aged 70 at his Edinburgh home on April 8th of 2009


PAT MCGLYNN:

The former guitar player for the rollers accused Tam Paton of raping him in a hotel room in 1977. Pat’s cousin faced trial in Australia for the charge of killing his brother-in-law, 24-year-old Andy Ball.


LES McKeown:

Les was 18 years old at the peak of his career in 1974. When he was 19 he treated himself to a turbo-charged Ford Mustang 351. In 1975, he was driving in Edinburgh when he hit and killed his 76-year-old neighbor Euphemia Clunie while she was crossing the road. At the age of 22, he was a has-been, looking after his mother and father in a hotel in Edinburgh because the house they owned had been repossessed. Journalist Simon Hattenstone was granted a rare interview with Lead Singer Les McKeown back in 2005. He described him as "still handsome, though a little bloated and pasty, like somebody who has taken more drugs in his time than is sensible". McKeown is now 56. Soon after that interview McKeown was charged with drink-driving.


ALAN LONGMUIR:

The band's bassist, now 60 years old along with his brother Derek who was the drummer for the band started the rollers in Edinburgh in 1967. Alan went back to working as a plumber after the band ended. Suffering a slight heart attack and then what his wife calls a "big stroke “he lost the power on his left side and still gets twitches. He attributes both the heart attack and stroke to the Bay City roller stress.


DEREK LONGMUIR:

Derek now 62 went back into nursing after a few snags in his life. He was fired from his job in 2001 at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he worked as a psychiatric nurse. In October 2001 he was allowed to resume his nursing career. Prior to that in 2000, he was convicted of downloading child pornography from the Internet and sentenced to 300 hours community service.


STUART JOHN ‘WOODY’ WOOD:

Now 55 and a guitar player for the band, has been rumored to have produced "some Scottish stuff" and has written several successful "Celtic mood" albums in recent years. He has been unreachable.


ERIC FAULKNER:

Faulkner now 59 was the other guitar player for the band and singer. He is MIA and unwilling to be found.


Most of the money owed to the band seems to be held in trust by the Sony-BMG, record company which bought out Arista in 1976. Sony-BMG has been unable to pay royalties because there is no copy of the initial contract. Chances are that they will never see what is owed to them. What difference would the outstanding royalties have made to the band members lives? McKeown says he wouldn't be here, because he'd be dead. So perhaps it's worked out for the best?

The only thing more pathetic than their music career is what they have done with their lives after the music and fame ended. Every single member has chosen to hold on to the bitterness, instead of focusing on the positive. The ones which have talked to the media constantly complain about the exhaustion, the exploitation by manager Tam Paton, the need to jump out of window’s into waiting vans to get away from fans, the lack of sleep, missed holidays and being given speed to keep themselves going. It's horrible to be unable to walk the street and have hundreds of girls outside your house every day. I’m sorry guys but you can't ask for the money and the fame without having to sacrifice. The larger the fame tends to be, the larger the sacrifices it tends to bring.

It pains me in a strange sort of way that these were the people that I once looked up to as idols in my youth. This article has bought about a few lessons for me. Never Idolize anyone because nobody’s perfect, Always try to walk away with something positive from every experience and when you take things for granted, those things you are granted get taken away. Oh yes….and always get it in writing!

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    Mitch8061 2 years ago

    I have to dispute your historical account of the formation of the Bay City Rollers. The ORIGINAL band was formed years before in 1966 and included David Paton (Pilot) and Nobby Clarke and Billy Lyall, along with the Longmuir brothers. I know this because I and my sister and friends all followed the Rollers in the 60's. The band split under Tam Paton between 1972 & 1973. The new Bay City Roller band was formed in 1974 and created the teeny bopper tartan clad band who weren't a patch on the original band regards real musical talent.

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    gary g. 2 years ago

    pathetic band.. pathetic 'music' .... its was totally vomit enducing cr*p !!

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    patricia_bruce 2 years ago

    My all-time favorite band! It warms my heart to see how well Les McKeown is doing these days! His turnaround is nothing short of miraculous. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for all of them. Great hub!

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    CP 2 years ago

    You obviously haven't researched what is happening to Eric. For several years now he has had a successful acoustic/celtic career and still heads Eric Faulkner's BCRs for those who want to revisit the 70s. I suggest you head over to ericfaulkner.org and give him a listen.

  • profile image

    Rhonda Charman 3 years ago

    Loved them then so many wonderful memories. love them still! Such a huge part of my life,

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    Carla Vandenberk 3 years ago

    saw Les last year in Canada! he's doing great and has a great band!

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    debbie 3 years ago

    Saw Les s group couple of months ago, fell in love all over again x

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    Get real 3 years ago

    Very judgmental article. The founding members in the band for a long time didn't see success. For the younger ones it came too soon and too quick. All seem to have been tricked out of royalties and were too young to understand the business . It's understandable that after having to return to hardscrabble lives despite working so hard with nothing to show for it, that they are telling it like it really was for them.

  • Maddambutterfly profile image
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    Marie V Stephens 3 years ago from New Mexico

    It gives me hope and it warms my heart to see you doing so well these days.

    Thanks for sharing the link Les. Many blessing and much love from one of your biggest fans in the 70's. ;)

  • profile image

    Les McKeown 3 years ago

    Yes, there were some dark periods in my life, but now I am refreshed and doing well.

    www.lesmckeown.com

  • Maddambutterfly profile image
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    Marie V Stephens 4 years ago from New Mexico

    Gabs, thanks for stopping in and commenting. I also think it's a shame anytime that those too young get thrown into the business without any warning and no true guidance. Look what happened to poor Elvis..

  • profile image

    Gabs 4 years ago

    I was one just like you... I went to a BCR concert! I Loved them! It's so sad, they were clearly too young to handle it all! And with no one to properly guide them through the contractual intricacies of the music world.... It's a shame.... Thanks for the info.

  • Maddambutterfly profile image
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    Marie V Stephens 4 years ago from New Mexico

    Thank you so much for your wonderful comment!! It thrilled me to learn that some of the guys have been performing together. I for one, would be the first in line to see them perform live one more time :)

  • profile image

    Billy Kindle 4 years ago

    I got to know Eric back in the Eighties, as a booking agent, we seemed to hit it off, and I also felt for there fall from stardom and wealth. I devoted my time and effort into doing my best to provide a platform for at least earning some well deserved income from the bands previous success. After a critical weekend at Erics house in Hastings, I believe I at least inspired Mr Falkener into reforming the band with the original line up. This did not fully materialise, but I was happy to see three original members back in the band. Woody came back from South Africa to be joined by Alan and of course Eric. We organised the music set based on what I believed the audience would enjoy the most, and equally , what the bookers would like to see.

    I got busy booking the bands date sheet, and had to convince the industry this was the real deal, not just a bank raid. Our first real tour was for the Henry Africas group, who had a series of large fun pubs, and on the fist gig Eric and the band not only filled the venue, but brought the house down with an action packed performance. TBC if you are interested, leave a note on this site...

  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    It was probably about 10 years ago and obviously had new members in the band but as I said they were really good! For me as someone involved in the business myself my view is that it is about whether an act can deliver the goods or not and not about their personal lives or tragedies that should be judged. The Rollers I saw could deliver!

  • Maddambutterfly profile image
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    Marie V Stephens 4 years ago from New Mexico

    I'm so glad that someone got it right Bard. I'm sorry I missed that, I would have loved to have seen them. I would have been singing along :)

  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    Voted up and awesome and just wanted to say that I saw the band in a much later incarnation at the Ely free festival in Cardiff and they were brilliant! They did all the old hits and despite the rain had the crowd singing along!

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    CR Mountjoy 4 years ago

    BCRs = the antithesis of what the Teddy's and punks did in the same decade. The big exception here is that the punks and Teddy's never followed themselves and reflected the reality of the social decay of urban life, esp in London. What the hell can you build on a lie of manufactured candy-cane, inanity like the BCR. Let's face it, BCR should only be pissed if they had any talent and did not get paid! No talent, no guts, no honor equals lost lives pining over something that never really existed.

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    SuzWrites 4 years ago

    Very interesting, I had no idea how tragic their lives had become.

  • Maddambutterfly profile image
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    Marie V Stephens 4 years ago from New Mexico

    Lorne, thanks for stopping in and commenting,

    I agree with you 100%!!

  • Lorne Hemmerling profile image

    Lorne Hemmerling 4 years ago from Oshawa

    This is very tragic and interesting. I had no idea all this happened. I agree, if you want the fame, don't complain! There are many out there that would change places with you. Still, some very unfortunate outcomes. I wish them all the best.

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    bibipbub9 5 years ago

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    Marie V Stephens 5 years ago from New Mexico

    thank you for the comments and the votes! I think its all tragic and even more so when they were someone you admired,looked up too and still had a chance to turn it around...so sad

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    Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

    This was a great hub. I remember their music, but never knew what happened to them and why. Yes, it is a hard life, as many of musician/singers died for whatever reason Voted awesome and up.

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    Rachael C. 5 years ago from That little rambunctious spot in the back of your mind :)

    So many tragedies have occurred within the music industry, and so many lives have been destroyed, both literally and symbolically. It is, indeed, very sad. Great hub, voted up, awesome, and interesting.

    --Rachael