The Evening News (Edinburgh)
May 18, 1999

Rock And Stroll

By Lorna Dowie

HE was one of five spikey-haired, tartan clad charmers who dazzled audiences on stage - the only tonic he needed was teenage enthusiasm and a trademark pint of milk. Stuart "Woody" Wood, renowned as the youngest and cutest Bay City Roller, was a picture of sheer health as he bounded about the stage, playing guitar while his fellow musicians sang along to Shang-a-Lang and Bye Bye Baby. Twelve years later it was a different story. He'd ditched his clean-cut image - as well as the white trousers with tartan trim, vest top and cropped jacket - for a life of drink and drugs. With his new band Passengers he toured South Africa spending eight hours a night in bars drinking pints and downing whiskies, the empty glasses sitting next to overflowing ashtrays as he chain-smoked the night away. He dabbled in drugs and stuffed himself with junk food. In between soundchecks and performances and to cope with the boredom of travelling he'd consume a mountain of crisps and sweets to pass the time.

These days that too is all in the past. For Stuart, 42, is back in the studio recording. And that has prompted him to ditch the dark and dingy corners of foreign bars for the serenity and solitude of Edinburgh's Pentland Hills where he regularly goes walking. In the place of booze, cigarettes and chips are fruit and vegetable juices, fresh meat, steamed fish and just the odd dram or two. And the pop star image of being surrounded by women has altered too - these days Celtic musician Stuart just has one woman in his life, wife Denise whom he married two years ago. It's no wonder he feels great and why he's been prompted to tell the story of his new clean bill of health to television sports presenter Hazel Irvine as part of the new BBC series Feeling Good. Taking a hike up the Pentlands -where he takes a two-hour walk every week - Stuart clad in jeans and a checked shirt with his dark hair blowing in the wind talks about the changes his lifestyle has gone through. "I come up here for the solitude and it's great to get outdoors. The only thing I saw for years was hotel rooms as we had to go in and out through the kitchen. I couldn't remember what a lobby looked like. This gives me a chance to reflect on the changes I've made in my life. "After the Rollers split I started a new band in Los Angeles playing run-of-the-mill rock and pop. We were together for four years and it was basically four years of drinking, gigging and clubbing," he adds. "It was a big change for me because I never really drank until I was 20 - the thing about the band only drinking milk was completely true - for me anyway." Stuart took an early dislike to alcohol after a New Year family party when he was just 14. "There was a crowd of us and unknown to the adults we were taking a slug out of everyone's drinks. We were all completely gone and I had a hangover that lasted for a week - every hour, on the hour, I was sick," he groans at the remembrance. "I was always healthy growing up. When I was at school, at St Augustine's, I was in the swimming team and I was in the Warrender Swimming Club. I even won a bronze medal doing back-stroke in a competition."

He smiles: "When we were on stage we were all jumping about daft. I think back in those days I had a 24 inch waist because of it all." He admits that today the waistline has increased slightly to a size 30. It was after the acrimonious split of the Bay City Rollers in 1977 -amid rumours of suicide attempts and nervous exhaustion - that squeaky clean Stuart's copybook collected was blotted.

At the age of 24 he left the States for South Africa, where he became a member of rock band Passengers and toured for eight years, although he tried his hand at acting as well. "We were big fish in a very small pond and had to live up to that pop star image. I didn't want everyone to know I was Woody who sang Bye Bye Baby. "We would have a gig every night and would be in the bar drinking from 8pm until 5am and smoking. And I don't think there is anyone that can say they've never experimented with drugs. "I would be stuffing myself full of rubbish every day. And there came a time, when I was 32, when I just thought I was still going to be doing the same when I was 40. I made a conscious decision to change my life, moved back to Scotland and adopted a much healthier lifestyle. I wanted to swap the darker colours in my life for much brighter ones." As well as changing his diet Stuart has embarked on a fitness regime. Running was ruled out as he suffered from knee pain, but that was substituted by brisk walking either in the Capital's suburbs or the Pentlands. Last Sunday he spent seven hours completing his third Munro, Ben Cruach, along with wife Denise. It also influences his music - he's just completed his fourth album. "It's like freedom - just like in Braveheart," admits Stuart. "I feel much better and fitter and am happy within myself. I don't care what happens in my life - the past four or five years have been perfect. I wouldn't have felt this way if I was back on the road."

Feeling Good producer Alison Black explains why they decided to feature the ex-Roller. "We first met Woody and his manager around the time that the documentary was made about the Bay City Rollers. We heard about the changes he'd made to his life and thought he was the ideal person to feature on the programme. "He's perfectly content with his life and will give others inspiration. We're not out to preach to people that they have to go to the gym six times a week and not go to the pub. "We just want to let them know what they can do and thought Stuart's story would be an ideal way to do it." Stuart is not the only Edinburgh star to tell of their fitness regimes in the new series. Ali Paton - aka Gladiator Siren - will also appear on the half -hour programme in training for a new series of the show. However Stuart admits there is one thing in his life that he'll never be able to give up, his daily pint - of milk. "It was a symbol of the Bay City Rollers but we did all genuinely love it and I still can't do without my full fat milk - I tried the semi-skimmed stuff on my cereal and it was like water. "And it can't do you any harm. My grandparents drank a pint a day and they lived to the age of 90!".

Feeling Good, a magazine- type programme on health, fitness and living lifeto the full and featuring Stuart's story will be broadcast across Scotland tonight at 8pm.