The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish Pop/rock band of the 1970s. Their youthful, clean-cut image, distinct styling featuring tartan-trimmed outfits, and cheery, sing-along pop hits helped the group become among the most popular musical acts of their time. For a relatively brief but fervent period (nicknamed "Rollermania"), they were a worldwide sensation. Since the band's quick rise to, and subsequent fall from fame, the members have endured numerous and varied struggles regarding royalty payments, substance abuse, and personal legal problems.
Bassist Alan Longmuir and his younger brother, Derek, a drummer, founded the group in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1967, as The Saxons. Shortly thereafter, seeking a less English-sounding moniker, they chose a new name by throwing a dart at a map of the United States. The dart landed on the map near the community of Bay City, Michigan.
They received their first break when prominent record executive Dick Leahy caught their act by chance in an Edinburgh club. The group went through many line-up changes (and non-charting singles) between 1971 and 1974. Their first hit was "Keep on Dancing" (UK #9, 1971), a cover of a 1965 Gentrys hit, a suggestion of producer Jonathan King. Upon this release's success, they made guest appearances on the BBC-TV's lip-sync television show Top of the Pops. Following on the heals of "Keep on Dancing", the group won a Radio Luxembourg sponsored song contest with the song "Mañana", which was later popular in parts of Europe and Israel.
Beginning with 1974's "Remember (Sha La La La)" (UK #6), the Rollers released a string of very successful hits on the British charts. Following in succession thereafter were "Shang-a-Lang" (UK #3), "Summerlove Sensation", and "All of Me Loves All of You". By the spring of 1975, they were one of the highest-selling acts in Britain. That year saw a successful UK tour (which prompted newspaper headlines about "Rollermania"), and a 20-week UK television series, Shang-a-Lang. A cover of the Four Seasons' "Bye, Bye, Baby", stayed at No. 1 in the UK for six weeks in the spring of 1975, selling a million copies, and the subsequent single "Give A Little Love" topped the charts that summer, their second #1 hit. At the peak of their popularity in the UK, comparisons were even made to The Beatles.
A popular playground chant of the time went (to the tune of "This Old Man"):
With an R-O-double-L, E-R-S,
Bay City Rollers are the best!
In 1976 they reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 with "Saturday Night", a song which was never released as a single in the UK. A second US hit came with "Money Honey" which hit #9 (earlier it went to #4 in the UK). The group also hit the US and UK charts that year with a cover version of the Dusty Springfield song "I Only Want To Be With You". This would be their last Top 10 success in Britain.
The group's commercial fortunes declined towards the end of the 1970s. There was also an attempt at a US television show later in the band's career. Paton was fired in 1979, as the band changed lead singers and shortened their name to The Rollers. Three albums were issued under this name, including 1981's Ricochet, but the group soon disbanded.
During the 80s and 90s, there were various short-lived revivals featuring some of the original members, notably including a New Year's Eve 1999 concert. Interest was rekindled in Britain by television documentaries about the group and a television-advertised compilation of greatest hits, which entered the UK charts on release in 2004 at its #11 peak.
Currently, there are two touring versions of the group: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers and Ian Mitchell's Bay City Rollers. Each group features only its titled member from the original Rollers heyday.
The line-up with which the group is most associated is the late 1973-early 1976 assemblage:
Eric Faulkner (lead guitar) (born Eric Francis Falconer, 21.10.1953, at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, Lothian).
Alan Longmuir (bass) (born Alan George Longmuir, 20.6.1949, at Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion Hospital, Edinburgh, Lothian).
Derek Longmuir (drums) (born Derek Michael Longmuir, 19.3.1951, at Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion Hospital, Edinburgh).
Les McKeown (lead vocals) (born Leslie Richard McKeon, 12.11.1955, at Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion Hospital, Edinburgh).
Stuart Wood (rhythm guitar) (born Stuart John Wood, 25.2.1957, at Chalmers Hospital, Edinburgh).
McKeown had replaced Gordon "Nobby" Clark (heard on "Keep On Dancing"). Alan Longmuir was replaced briefly by Irish American guitarist Ian Mitchell, who in turn was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn. Longmuir re-joined the band in 1978. McKeown was replaced in 1979 by Duncan Faure, a South African singer.
Their Scottish identity was a major factor in their marketing, and they were one of few groups whose fans had a completely distinctive style of dress, the main elements of which were ankle length tartan trousers and tartan scarves.
They had a total of six top 40 singles in the US overall.
A recent Channel 4 documentary explored the speculation about what happened to the supposed financial fortune the group generated in their career, with accusations that it was defrauded from the group by their management and record company. There are claims that the group sold 100-300 million records and generated the equivalent of five thousand million pounds in revenue, with the band members themselves earning very little. According to BBC they sold 70 million records. However, even this figure has been disputed by several sources, not least their former record company.