Early Beatles Bassist Chas Newby Dead At 81
Chas Newby, the rare musician who could claim the rare distinction of having briefly been a Beatle, has died. Newby joined the Beatles on bass for several shows in 1960. The news of his passing emerged on Facebook; both Roag Best, the brother of former Beatles drummer Pete Best, and Liverpool’s Cavern Club, the venue where the Beatles famously cut their teeth, announced the news. No cause of death has been revealed. Newby was 81.
When the Beatles first formed in 1960, they famously split their time between Liverpool and Hamburg, where they performed all-night sets in strip clubs. The band’s original bassist was John Lennon’s late art-school friend Stu Sutcliffe. The band moved to Hamburg in August 1960. In December, different members of the band were deported from Germany — the underage George Harrison for lying about his age to authorities, Paul McCartney and Pete Best attempting arson. When John Lennon returned to Liverpool after those deportations, Stu Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg — partly because he had a German girlfriend and partly because he had a cold and didn’t feel like traveling.
Back in Liverpool, the Beatles set up four shows at local clubs, and they needed a bassist. Pete Best suggested Liverpool native Chas Newby, who’s been in his pre-Beatles band the Blackjacks. Newby, a university student, was on break from school, so he took Sutcliffe’s place for those shows, figuring he could make some Christmas money. When the Beatles returned to Hamburg soon afterward, John Lennon reportedly invited Newby to come with them. Newby had only earned four pounds during his time in the band, and he declined the invitation and returned to his studies. Stu Sutcliffe briefly rejoined the Beatles before officially leaving the band in July 1961. Paul McCartney — a left-handed bassist, like Chas Newby — took over full-time bass duties. In 1962, Stu Sutcliffe died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 21.
Chas Newby didn’t keep in touch with the Beatles. Instead, Newby studied chemistry and got a job at a company that made windshields for trains and aircraft. He raised a family, retired, and started a new career as a math teacher. On the side, he played with a charity band called the Racketts. In 2016, Chas Newby joined a revived version of the Quarrymen, John Lennon’s pre-Beatles skiffle band, and he played occasional shows with them around Liverpool.
In 2012, Newby told Birmingham Live, “People sometimes don’t believe me when I say I’ve no regrets, but I really haven’t. I have enjoyed my life immensely.”