While the US didn’t notice the Bay City Rollers until 1975, the group got its start in Scotland in 1964 as a trio of musicians between the ages of 14 and 18 named The Ambassadors. They added another member as their lead singer and played dance hall concerts. The group concentrated on covering American pop and Motown hit records.
Several years of working together (and numerous lineup changes) found the group with yet another name, The Rollers. Since they performed mostly American music, they wanted to change the name to sound more American. They threw a dart at a dartboard, and the result was Arkansas. They didn’t like that name too much, so they gave the dart a second chance. The dart homed in on Bay City, Michigan, and their name became the Bay City Rollers.
The group signed with Bell Records and recorded their first single. Keep On Dancing was a cover of a 1965 record by the Gentrys and it became a top ten hit in the UK in 1971 but didn’t chart anywhere else. It appears that at least producer Jonathan King sang the background vocals rather than members of the group. The Rollers later re-recorded the song on an album.
Three less successful singles followed, including the 1973 single, Saturday Night, which failed to chart at all.
The group finally hit its stride in 1974. The group scored four top ten records in the UK, leading to the growth of Rollermania and unwarranted comparisons to the Beatles.
Their single release of Bye, Bye Baby, their cover of the Four Seasons song, sat at number one in the UK for six weeks in 1975. Another #1 record and a #4 record followed in the UK.
By early 1976, their record company decided it was finally time to promote the group in the US. Oddly enough, they began by using a single that had previously failed: Saturday Night. Thanks to endless promotion and a series of television appearances, the record hopped its way to the top of the Hot 100.
Money Honey reached the top ten in the US and #4 in the UK. The single after that, Rock And Roll Love Letter, only reached #28 in the US and failed to chart in the UK.
Dusty Springfield sang on several hit records with the group The Springfields in the early sixties. She released her first solo record, I Only Want To Be With You, when the group broke up in 1963. The Bay City Rollers released their version in 1976. Coincidentally, each single peaked at #12 on the US Hot 100 and at #4 in the UK. It was to be the Bay City Roller’s last top ten record in the UK.
In the US, the group had one more top ten record and one single that reached #24 in 1977. The group kept releasing singles through 1985 but never reached the UK or US charts again. Various groupings of former members have continued to tour on the oldies circuit.
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