WHO would have thought that a musical mum and a horse-drawn milk cart would eventually lead to chart domination?

Les McKeown had just turned 18 when he joined the Bay City Rollers in what would become their most successful era.

But the Scottish star started singing long before that. In fact, he found it difficult to stop.

Les, the son of a seamstress and a tailor, told Weekend: “I’d just turned 18 on November 12 and my first gig with the Bay City Rollers was November 18 so it was just a few days after my birthday.

“But I’d always wanted to be a singer since I was very young.

“My mum was a singer and I was the youngest of four boys so I got an extra bit of pampering.

“She was a falsetto in a Belfast women’s choir and in the girls’ choir before that.

“So she was always singing Irish songs and all that kind of stuff and I just picked it up.

“We started singing together around the house and I just thought it was completely normal.

“I listened to the radio intensely to try and learn all the words in the hits. I remember Free’s All Right Now and Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water – all that kind of era.

“Then as I progressed through the years I got a paper round and a milk round and I used to sing as I did that. I was singing to my horse while delivering milk in and around Edinburgh and occasionally people would shout: ‘Shut up, I’m trying to sleep’.”

Undeterred, Les got the opportunity to step off the milk cart for the last time and join a band when he was just a teenager.

He said: “I got invited to leave school which I took as a sign from God that I was destined to be in a band.

“I got on the road with a band called Threshold and the bass player Alan Wright was good friends with Alan Longmuir from the Bay City Rollers, who has now sadly died.

“So I got to meet Alan way before I joined the Bay City Rollers.”

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Before becoming a musician, Les’s ‘training ground’ was attending gigs by the likes of Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Roxy Music in Edinburgh.

That stagecraft gave him an idea in his head of what to expect when he got his moment.

Les added: “Most of the gigs I didn’t pay for as we had a ‘special way’ to get in which involved climbing up a drainpipe and coming in through a window.

“We saw the greats and the audience’s reaction to them and I thought: ‘That’s what is going to happen if I get famous’.”

And it did.

Les said: “People started wanting to get closer to the stage, then we got louder, the hits kept coming and audiences got bigger.”

By 1975 the band had two number ones with Bye, Bye, Baby and Give A Little Love.

This was the era of ‘Rollermania’ when the band were heralded as the biggest group since the Beatles and sold 120 million records.

So was Les the missing piece of the puzzle or just in the right place at the right time?

The 64-year-old added: “It was a bit of everything. The chemistry was right and those were dark, crappy days and in a strange way that worked in our favour.

“The electric was going off, the miners were on strike, the railway was on strike, nobody could go anywhere – it was all rubbish.

“And I think a fresh working-class band like us with colourful clothes and happy go lucky faces just made the kids think: ‘Check it out, there is something happy and nice in the world’.

“We were the guys who were all the girls’ ‘boyfriends’ in name only

“We were the safest boyfriends you could have because we were a two-dimensional object from a magazine.”

Fast-forward four decades and Les reckons the classic songs still hold their power.

And despite having sang them hundreds of times and enduring occasional clashes with other band members in the past, he sees his role as being clear.

Les said: “Audiences want me to sing the hits that they remember from when they were kids.

“This is now 45 years on the road. Most of that time has been fans coming to concerts in their droves and having a happy time.

“You just become a bit more professional about what you do and realise what it is the audience want.

“If you can live with that and take some kind of joy from performing for them then you’ll get as much out of it too.

“You get that kind of feedback when you realise everyone in the audience is smiling and you’re bringing them back to their childhood. That in itself makes you feel proud and inspired to do a good job.”

Now in his 60s, Les admits the touring life is tiring – but still worth it.

He added: “What I enjoy less and less is the travelling. It can be pretty boring travelling four and half hours to the next gig.

“You’ve then got three hours to set up your equipment and do a sound check. People don’t see that part of it but of course you can’t put on a mopey face even if you’re tired.

“That would take away from all their experience that night at the show.

“Each little moment is the audience’s moment in time so you’ve got to constantly be aware of the impression you leave.”

Les McKeown’s Bay City Rollers perform at the Parr Hall on Saturday. Visit parrhall.culturewarrington.org