‘Meeting Les McKeown was honestly one of the best nights of my life’

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Judy Murray with the Bay City Rollers. Les McKeown, far left, died this week
Judy Murray with the Bay City Rollers. Les McKeown, far left, died this week

It’s not often I’m star-struck. But sitting in the Green Room of the Usher Hall in Edinburgh with the Bay City Rollers five years ago was quite a surreal experience for me.

I couldn’t believe I was there – in my tartan trousers, of course – with Les McKeown, Stuart Wood and Alan Longmuir. These were the men who had adorned my bedroom wall when I was a girl, and here they were eating sandwiches and talking to me about my sons Jamie and Andy, as they got ready to go on stage.

Actually, Les and co had not just been fixtures on my bedroom wall – the posters ripped from Jackie magazine and Fab 208 – but also on my school jotters, too. They were the inspiration for my fashion sense and the topic of every conversation at break time and after school too. They were the obsession of me and all my friends, and so many more teens around the world.

Today, all those fans will be feeling as sad as I do at the news of Les McKeown’s untimely death this week, aged 65. It doesn’t feel fair and it’s far too early – not least as looking back, the band itself never got the chance to fulfil its potential either, thanks to poor management.

Despite selling 120m records and being hailed as the new Beatles, the band’s heyday only lasted about four years – the length of time Les was the lead singer.

But what years they were for us fans who became music’s answer to the Tartan Army.

“Rollermania” didn’t just mean buying the singles – Remember, Summerlove Sensation, Bye Bye Baby and Shang-a-Lang; I took the latter with me as one of my Desert Island Discs.

It also meant dressing the way the band did: sawn-off trousers with tartan trim, short-sleeved shirts with front pockets (and tartan flaps), plus a tartan scarf tied around your wrist. Yes, I wore the lot.

Les was my favourite: really cute, with that swagger about him, but I was partial to Woody, too.

I didn’t get to see them live back then. Obviously, I would have loved to but I was playing sport every weekend and I was probably too young as well to be let loose in those massive crowds.

So when I heard there was a reunion tour in December 2016, I wasn’t going to miss out. I was so excited when I got my tickets that I put it on my Twitter feed, and that’s how their manager got in touch to offer me the chance to meet the boys beforehand.

It turned out they were all huge fans of Jamie and Andy, who were both year-end World Number Ones at that point, so we ended up talking about Scots who had impacted on the world in different ways.

Did it matter that when we met, they were a group of old men? Not one bit.

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And once they started performing, it was a trip back in time. All around me were largely menopausal women reliving our youth, and behind the band, screens showed them performing as we remembered best: young, sexy and exciting.

We were all up and swaying, we knew all the words. Honestly, it was one of the best nights of my life.

Afterwards, I looked forward to seeing them again, and we’d swapped numbers. I planned on inviting Les and his wife Peko to Wimbledon. Sadly we never managed to make the dates work. But I will always have this great memory. He was such a massive teen crush for me.

You can keep your Donny Osmonds and David Cassidys. It was Les McKeown all day long for this tartan teen.

Les McKeown died this week, at the age of 65 - Getty
Les McKeown died this week, at the age of 65 - Getty

As told to Victoria Lambert