Bay City Rollers were a pop phenomenon in the mid-'70s, taking their money-in-the-bank mix of good looks, pop hooks, and just a dash of rock & roll danger from their native Scotland to the rest of Great Britain and then North America.
The Rollers' biggest hits ("Bye, Bye, Baby," "Give a Little Love," "Saturday Night") were pure bubblegum in the tradition of the Partridge Family and Ohio Express, and they proved hugely popular with adolescent girls.
The origins of the group go back to the formation of the duo the Longmuir Brothers in the late '60s, consisting of drummer Derek Longmuir (b. March 19, 1952, Edinburgh, Scotland) and his bass-playing brother Alan (b. June 20, 1953, Edinburgh; d. July 2, 2018, Larbert, Scotland). They eventually changed their name to the Saxons, adding singer Nobby Clarke and John Devine. Then they changed their name again by pointing at random to a spot on a map of the United States: Bay City, Michigan. Their first hit was a cover of the Gentrys' "Keep on Dancing," which reached number nine in the U.K. in September 1971. In June 1972, guitarist Eric Faulkner (b. October 21, 1954, Edinburgh) joined. In January 1973, singer Leslie McKeown (b. November 12, 1955, Edinburgh) and guitarist Stuart Wood (b. February 25, 1957, Edinburgh) replaced Clarke and Devine, stabilizing the quintet's lineup.
After flopping with three singles, they finally hit the Top Ten again in February 1974 with "Remember." At this point, the Rollers became a teen sensation in Great Britain, with their good looks and tartan knickers, and they scored a series of Top Ten U.K. hits over the next two and a half years: "Shang-a-Lang," "Summerlove Sensation," "All of Me Loves All of You," "Bye Bye Baby" (a cover of Four Seasons hit that went to number one), "Give a Little Love" (another number one), "Money Honey," "Love Me Like I Love You," and "I Only Want to Be with You" (a cover of the Dusty Springfield hit). Their albums Rollin', Once Upon a Star, Wouldn't You Like It, and Dedication were also Top Ten successes, with Rollin' and Once Upon a Star getting to number one. They scored their first U.S. hit with "Saturday Night," which was released in September 1975 and hit number one in January 1976. It was followed by the Top Ten hits "Money Honey" and "You Made Me Believe in Magic." The Rollers also had five straight gold albums in the U.S.: Bay City Rollers, Rock 'n' Roll Love Letter, Dedication, It's a Game, and Greatest Hits.
Alan Longmuir left the band in June 1976 and was replaced by Ian Mitchell (b. August 22, 1958, Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland), who was in turn replaced by Pat McGlynn (b. March 31, 1958, Edinburgh) in June 1977. Longmuir returned in 1978, the same year that McKeown was replaced by Duncan Faure and Faulkner quit to go solo. But by then the Bay City Rollers had scored their last hits. Ian Mitchell died on September 2, 2020 at the age of 62. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi