‘It was a terrible shock – but now he’s at peace’: Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown’s widow Peko Keiko breaks her silence after his death ‘from a heart attack’ aged 65 and remembers their often turbulent 30 years together
- Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown, 65, died from suspected heart attack
- His widow Peko Keiko, spoke for the first time about their 30 years of marriage
- Couple met at London Japanese sushi restaurant where Leslie was the manager
- Overcame several obstacles, including drug and alcohol addiction and affairs
The widow of Bay City Rollers legend Les McKeown has revealed for the first time the ups and downs of their turbulent marriage following the death of the singer from a suspected heart attack.
Speaking from her London home just days after the singer died on Tuesday, aged 65, Peko Keiko paid tribute to her late husband and admitted their love affair had survived for more than 30 years against the odds.
She also explained why she made him keep the first of two weddings, London, a secret so that they could hold a second traditional Buddhist ritual on a Japanese mountaintop, for which the pop icon shaved his head.
Speaking for the first time since his death, widow Peko Keiko said their love affair had survived for more than 30 years against the odds. Pictured: Les McKeown, wife Peko and son Jubei
The couple had two weddings, one at Chelsea town hall before they travelled to Japan for a ceremony conducted by Peko’s father. Pictured: Peko and Les
Peko admitted she didn’t have a clue that her husband was a famous pop star and hadn’t seen him sing until after they were married.
She also told how he flirted and asked her for a date when he turned up for a meeting at a Sushi bar where she was working as the manager.
Acknowledging the turbulent times together – including dealing with the singer’s drug, alcohol addictions and his affairs with other men – grief stricken Peko said: ‘I met Leslie when he was working as a manager in a Japanese sushi restaurant that had a Karaoke bar in the basement in London. He said, ‘Hello Suzie Woo’ and that was it.
‘Leslie said to me, ‘Would you like to go for a movie after dinner?’ I said, no I can’t go to the movie, I have a job. Then he gave me his card and wrote his number on the back. I put it in my pocket. I didn’t call for a long time. I didn’t know he was in the Bay City Rollers. I was not interested in the Bay City Rollers because it wasn’t my taste. I like rock.’
The pair began dating in 1978 and eventually moved in together, but only after she had told him their long distance relationship couldn’t work.
But Les was determined they should stay together. In a last ditch effort to save the relationship, he asked her to spend time with him in the US.
But when she flew to spend a week with him in Los Angeles he served her with an ultimatum.
Peko said: ‘After three months of asking me, I gave up and said I would go to Los Angeles for a visit.
‘I went to Los Angeles for a week and he was so happy to see me. We met with friends, we went to yoga and restaurants.
Keiko (pictured with Les in 2006) forgave him for his many affairs, with Les admitting he had been a ‘complete b***ard’ due to drink and drugs
Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown (pictured in 1977) died at his home suddenly at the age of 65, from a suspected heart attack
‘I was only there for a week and Les asked me to stay longer. I said no I had to go back to my job.
‘He asked me to choose between my job or him. After that we decided, he would come to London.
‘He would stay in my flat and then he was going back and forth between Cornwall where his parents were living and my flat.
‘Over time all his stuff like his clothes and shoes were in my flat.’
To her surprise, he woke her one morning to tell her she was getting married – that afternoon!
‘One day when I was sleeping Les woke me up and said, ‘Peko wake up, wake up, come on, we are going to get married today.’ I just woke up and he kept saying, come on, get going.
‘I said, ‘But I have to tell my Mummy and Daddy first.’
‘But Leslie kept insisting and told me that he had already taken my passport and registered for us to marry at Chelsea Town Hall on the Kings Road.’
They tied the knot but they both made a vow to keep the wedding a secret for the sake of her parents.
Les (top was parachuted in aged 18 to join the band after Nobby Clark left. By 1978, the rest of the band had become convinced that McKeown was treating them as a backing band, once being kicked off stage after standing in front of bandmates during solos
‘We got married that day and we kept it a secret,’ Peko said.
‘Because my mother and father were not at our wedding we went to Japan and had a traditional Buddhist blessing.
‘My father was a Buddhist monk at Iwayadera Shrine so the blessing was there and he conducted the ceremony.
‘To respect my father Les shaved his hair for the ceremony. We both wore traditional wedding kimonos.
‘We had close family and friends. I remember most about the day was telling my father not to cry because he was so proud.
‘I feel guilty about that. Les spoke in Japanese in the ceremony and we were trying not to laugh.’
At the height of his fame, Edinburgh-born McKeown fronted the most famous pop group in the world. But Peko wasn’t a fan.
She had met the singer after his fame began to wane in 1978.
In fact, she hadn’t even seen him sing when they were dating.
She said: ‘I had never seen him sing before we married. A fan asked me which song do you like and I said, ‘I don’t know any of his songs. I know they were the tartan check band but I didn’t know anything else.”
McKeown had joined the Bay City Rollers in 1973, after replacing Nobby Clark as lead singer.
Within months ‘Rollermania’ had gripped the nation – so called because of the hysteria from fans who flocked to see the band wherever they went, just as the previous generation had done during Beatlemania.
His hits with the band included 1974’s Remember (Sha La La La) and the pop anthem Shang-a-Lang.
Les McKeown (pictured second from left) was born in Edinburgh to Irish parents and was known for his romantic lyrics and Tartan-clad fashion
A year later, they topped the UK charts with Bye, Bye, Baby and Give A Little Love.
They made it No1 in the US – with Saturday Night –and had their own TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic.
But after a series of bust ups with other band members he left to go solo. Soon after the Bay City Rollers fell apart.
A series of dodgy deals by the band’s paedophile manager Tam Paton meant he didn’t benefit from his share of royalties – estimated £300million in today’s money.
Instead, he recently settled in court with the band’s old label for £70,000.
For much of his life he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He drank three bottles of whisky a day at one point.
In 2008 his GP told him he wouldn’t see Christmas and he decided to turn his life around.
By chance, the singer was asked to participate in a TV documentary the following year about addiction.
He entered the rehab facility Passages in Malibu, California, and spent four months there with Peko.
The late former Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown (pictured with his wife Peko Keiko) outside court in 2005 after being accused of conspiring to sell half a kilo of cocaine. He was cleared but admitted he was a heavy user of the drug
It was while in rehab he confessed to having had a string of sexual encounters with men.
At the time, he said: ‘I’ve been a bit of a George Michael, meeting people, often strangers, for sex.
‘Peko’s an incredible woman. There have been times when she’s forgiven me for cheating with other women. I think this has been harder.
‘This gay thing has been really hard for her to confront. She has been a big rock holding the family together and I’m really lucky to have her.’
Peko admits she put up with it all because she loved him.
She said: ‘Leslie was a good husband but of course everybody has ups and downs. I went everywhere to the concerts with our son. We had lots of good times and hard times.
‘Leslie struggled with his own demons. His dying is a terrible shock but now he is in peace.’
Peko and son Jubei are asking fans to make donations to the Music Support UK.
The other key members of the iconic band Bay City Rollers
Faulkner joined the Bay City Rollers in 1972 as their guitarist and was one of the main faces of the band over the years.
Faulkner joined the Bay City Rollers in 1972 as their guitarist and was one of the main faces of the band over the years
He co-wrote more than half of the recorded catalogue of Rollers songs including the ‘Money Honey’ and ‘Love Me Like I Love You’.
Faulkner also worked on a reformed version of the band in the 1990s.
In the last 10 years Faulkner has appeared at a number of music festivals including Parkfest and The Edinburgh Guitar and Music Festival.
According to a book by fellow Bay City Rollers star, Alan Longmuir, Faulkner had a major health scare in 2015 when he developed viral encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain.
In recent years, Faulkner has written his own folk music, which he posts for free, with an option of a donation, on his website.
Stuart Wood, known as ‘Woody’, was a guitarist in the Bay City Rollers. He joined in 1974, helping the band to make their breakthrough.
Stuart Wood, known as ‘Woody’, was a guitarist in the Bay City Rollers
After his success with The Rollers, Wood moved to South Africa and performed in a band called The Passengers, which became a chart topping success throughout the 1980s.
He later returned home to Scotland and in 2007 produced the debut album for Scottish folk duo the MacDonald Brothers.
Wood is still said to be active in music.
In a 2019 interview with the Sun, he said his biggest regret was not getting one last Saturday Night out with his late bandmate Alan Longmuir.
He said:’We had arranged to meet up but one thing led to another and we never got the chance.’
Alan Longmuir was one of the founding members of the Bay City Rollers, along with his younger brother Derek. He played bass guitar.
Alan Longmuir was one of the founding members of the Bay City Rollers, along with his younger brother Derek
In 1976, at the height of the band’s popularity, Longmuir left and was replaced by Ian Mitchell, who was later replaced by Patrick McGlynn.
Longmuir returned to the group in 1978 following McGlynn’s departure.
He later became the owner of Castle Campbell Hotel in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, but suffered two heart attacks and a stroke.
Longmuir died, aged 70, in hospital in Scotland after contracting an illness while on holiday in Mexico.
The musician, who was born in Edinburgh, died at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert ‘surrounded by loved ones’ two weeks after being flown home.
Following his death his family said: ‘He brought so much love and kindness to everyone he met, and he leaves a huge hole in our family. He would humbly say he was ‘just a plumber from Edinburgh who got lucky’.
Derek Longmuir was one of the founding members and the drummer for the Bay City Rollers.
Derek Longmuir was one of the founding members and the drummer for the Bay City Rollers
He started the pop group with his brother, Alan before retiring from music in the 1980s and training in nursing.
The drummer qualified in 1993 to work at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
However in 2000, the drummer was sentenced to 300 hours of community service after admitting possessing child pornography.
When police raided Longmuir’s home they found child pornography on videos, photographs and computer images.
The court heard how Lothian and Borders Police serious crime squad officers found the material after a tip-off.
Twenty-two videos out of 153 seized and six projector reels contained child porn.
Longmuir pleaded guilty to the offence, but maintained the offending materials did not belong to him and were instead left behind by an acquaintance.
Ian joined the band in 1976, aged 17, replacing bassist Alan Longmuir – but left after seven months with the Scots group.
Ian Mitchell (pictured in 1976) joined the band, aged 17, replacing bassist Alan Longmuir – but left after seven months with the Scots group, dubbed as ‘tartan teen sensations’.
However the musician made a lasting impact with the band, with whom he recorded the hit Dusty Springfield cover ‘I Only Want to be With You’.
While with the Bay City Rollers Ian recorded one album, Dedication, in 1976, and had a hit cover of the Dusty Springfield song ‘I Only Want to be With You.’
The track reached number 12 on the US charts.
He also earned a mention in Friends in a 2001 episode when Monica and Chandler get engaged.
In it, Monica, played by Courteney Cox, says: ‘I want a string quartet for the processional, a jazz trio for cocktails and The Bay City Rollers for dancing.’
Chandler, played by Matthew Perry, then responds: ‘You couldn’t get The Rollers anyway as Ian doesn’t play any more.’
He left in late 1976 as the band’s popularity began to dwindle and was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn.
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