If you’re a hardcore Beatles fan, you may know about the man who could claim the rare distinction of having briefly been a Beatle. That man is Chas Newby: a bassist who joined the group for several shows in 1960. Newby was 81.
Both Roag Best, the brother of former Beatles drummer Pete Best, and Liverpool’s Cavern Club, the venue where the Beatles famously grew their fanbase, announced the news over Facebook. No cause of death has been revealed.
For context: when the Beatles formed in 1960, they split their time between Liverpool and Hamburg, where they performed all-night sets. The band’s original bassist was John Lennon’s late art-school friend Stu Sutcliffe. The band moved to Hamburg in August 1960. But in December, members of the band ended up getting deported from Germany. (The underage George Harrison lied about his age to authorities, while Paul McCartney and Pete Best attempted arson.) When John Lennon returned to Liverpool after those deportations, Sutcliffe decided to remain in Hamburg – partly because he had a German girlfriend and partly because he had a cold and didn’t feel like traveling.
Needing a new Liverpool bassist to replace Sutcliffe, Pete Best suggested Liverpool native Chas Newby, who played in his pre-Beatles band the Blackjacks. Newby, a university student at the time, was on break from school, so he took Sutcliffe’s place for those shows. He figured doing so could make him some Christmas money. When the Beatles returned to Hamburg soon afterward, John Lennon reportedly invited Newby to come tour with them. But Newby had only earned four pounds during his time in the band, and he declined the invitation and returned to his studies.
Once Newby was gone, Paul McCartney – a left-handed bassist, like Newby – took over full-time bass duties. Sutcliffe briefly rejoined the band and played bass before officially exiting in 1961. In 1962, Stu Sutcliffe died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 21.
Anyway, 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. He still pursued music on the side, playing 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.” He also said, “Music was never going to be a living for me. I wanted to do chemistry…John, Paul and George, they just wanted to be musicians.”
See social media tributes to Chas Newby below.
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