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Roger Newell, bassist for Rick Wakeman and Marty Wilde, dies aged 73

Photo of Rick WAKEMAN, Roger Newell and Rick Wakeman performing on stage
(Image credit: Ian Dickson/Redferns)

Roger Newell, bass player for Rick Wakeman, Marty Wilde and the Wildcats among others, has died.

The bassist suffered an aortic aneurysm on Friday September 10, following a long battle with heart-related illness.

He was best known for performing on Wakeman’s 1974 prog opus, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, as well as its follow-ups, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and No Earthly Connection, and associated tours.

In order to perform the complex works of King Arthur… live, Newell collaborated with Wal basses on the first triple-neck bass guitar, which he used with Wakeman’s English Rock Ensemble for shows at Wembley and subsequent tours. The original bass was donated to New York’s Hard Rock Cafe, and copies were eventually made for Chris Squire to play with Yes.

Roger Newell

(Image credit: RWCC.com)

Wakeman has paid tribute to Newell, stating, “Roger was such an important founder member of the English Rock Ensemble and his love and understanding of prog rock and orchestral/symphonic rock, was second to none.

“He was enthusiastic, dedicated and a great guy to be around. He was just as happy when we all were playing in the (now defunct) Valiant Trooper in Holmer Green on a Sunday to raise money for charity as he was walking on stage at Madison Square Garden to perform Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

“Roger always deserved more recognition as a bass player and his incredibly musical input in both notation and sounds on No Earthly Connection is a lasting tribute to his talent.”

Prior to joining Wakeman, Newell was part of cult psychedelic pop outfit Rainbow Ffolly, who signed to Parlophone for 1968 debut Sallies Fforth, copies of which have since gone on to garner considerable sums on the used market.

The group reunited 48 years later for sophomore effort, FFollow Up, making it one of the longest gaps between studio albums on record.

“What we do is let the song dictate where we go musically. The song is always the most important thing,” Newell told Prog of Ffolly’s material. “But our sense of humour also shines through.”

From 1988 onwards, Newell was part of the Wildcats, the backing band for British rock ’n’ roll legend Marty Wilde, and performed thousands of gigs alongside Wildcats guitarist and Guitar Techniques editor Neville Marten.

Newell was also deputy editor of the UK’s Bassist magazine in the ’90s and a regular contributor to Guitarist up to the present day, where he will be remembered for his big heart, impeccable attention to detail and infinite well of tour stories.

The Wildcats paid tribute to Newell on social media, writing: “The shock of losing him has hit us all like a brick, especially as we have gigs to fulfil and brave faces to put on.

“Of course Rog would not have wanted anything but for us to keep giving it everything we've got. We will raise a glass to him at every show, and remember the thousands of gigs we've done together, and how his brilliant bass playing powered the band for well over 30 years.

“Here's how we all remember him best, with his faithful vintage Fender Precision bass, ‘Baby’, that ever cheeky grin, and the twinkle in his eye that we all know so well. It's an old cliché we know, but Heaven's band just got a whole lot better!”

Roger Newell

(Image credit: The Wildcats/Facebook)
Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He's spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, and a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.