Chas Newby, who enjoyed a two-week stint as the Beatles’ bassist in 1960, died on Monday at age 81.
The Cavern Club, the legendary Liverpool venue where the Fab Four logged hundreds of performances, shared the news in a statement on Facebook. “It’s with great sadness to hear about the passing of Chas Newby,” the venue wrote. “Chas stepped in for the Beatles for a few dates when Stuart Sutcliffe stayed in Hamburg, and latterly he played for the Quarrymen. Interestingly, he was also the first left-handed bass guitarist in the Beatles. RIP Chas Newby — thoughts and well wishes from everybody at the Cavern Club.”
Roag Best, brother of fellow ex-Beatle Pete Best, also paid tribute to Newby on Facebook. “Both Pete and I and the whole Best family [are] absolutely [devastated] to hear the very sad news with regards to one of the [family’s] closest friends, Chas Newby, passing last night,” Best wrote. “Many of you will know him for playing bass guitar for both the Beatles and the Quarrymen, but to us he was laidback Chas with the big smile. We’ll truly miss him. Forever in our thoughts. God bless you, Chas.”
Born on June 18, 1941 — exactly one year before Paul McCartney — in Blackpool, England, Newby joined the Beatles in December 1960 when they returned to Liverpool from West Germany and needed a bassist, as Stuart Sutcliffe had stayed in Hamburg to focus on his art career. Best recommended Newby, a 19-year-old college student on holiday who had previously played with Best in the Blackjacks.
The short-lived quintet played its first of four shows on Dec. 17, 1960, at Liverpool’s Casbah Club. John Lennon reportedly invited Newby to return to West Germany with them, but Newby, unimpressed with the meager pay, opted to stay in England and focus on his academic career. Instead, McCartney reluctantly switched from guitar to bass, a role he held for the rest of the Beatles’ tenure.
Newby, meanwhile, made good on his desires, studying chemistry in college and obtaining a master’s degree in chemical engineering. He started a family with his late wife, Margaret, and became a math teacher at Droitwich Spa High School in Worcestershire, England.
The temporary Beatle harbored no illusions of rock stardom. “Music was never going to be a living for me,” Newby told the Sunday Mercury in 2012. “I wanted to do chemistry. John, Paul and George, they just wanted to be musicians.”
Although Newby didn’t keep in touch with his former bandmates, he fondly recalled the experience, particularly the friendship he forged with Harrison. “George was the one I got on the best with,” he said. “He knew Pete already. He was always telling funny stories about getting deported from Germany whenever we sat around chatting.”
Newby, who also performed with the pre-Beatles band the Quarrymen since 2016, always insisted that he was happy with the path he chose. “People sometimes don’t believe me when I say I’ve no regrets,” he said. “But I really haven’t. I have enjoyed my life immensely.”
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