Chas Newby, a Liverpool-raised bassist who performed with The Beatles, has passed away aged 81.
The news was shared by the Cavern Club – the Liverpool venue and the city’s de facto epicenter of Beatles tourism – in a post on Facebook.
“It’s with great sadness to hear about the passing of Chas Newby,” wrote the venue management. “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.”
Newby was at school with Pete Best, the Beatles’ early drummer, from the age of 11 and played alongside him in Best’s skiffle group, The Blackjacks. The band often played at The Casbah Club – operated by Best’s mother in the cellar of their Victorian home.
The Quarrymen – a pre-Beatles band featuring a young John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison – also performed at the venue.
“The only reason people know who I am is down to Pete Best,” Newby once told Liverpool newspaper The Echo. “I was at school with Peter and I played rugby with him and when his mum opened that club, The Casbah Club, underneath their house, we were all there on the first night.”
The Quarrymen later became the Beatles and recruited Best for their first stint in Hamburg, alongside bassist Stuart Sutcliffe – a friend of Lennon’s from art college. It was in a period between the band’s formative stays in the German city that Newby was recruited as a bassist.
“In 1960, Peter joined John, Paul, George and Stuart and they went off to Hamburg for the first time,” Newby told The Echo. “But we kept in touch… [One day] I went down the Casbah Club [and was told], ‘Oh they’re due back in the middle of December.’
“Sure enough, they turned up – without Stuart. Stuart stayed behind with Astrid [Kirchherr, his partner and early Beatles photographer]. So they get back to Liverpool and they needed to get some gigs to get some money and they also need to find a bass player. Peter said, Oh, he’ll do it…”
RIP Chas Newby, fill-in Beatle and fair chap. He deputised for Stuart on a few dates when the Beatles returned from Hamburg the first time, end-1960, including the momentous Litherland date. Latterly he’s been one of the Quarry Men too. A charming man, always a pleasure to meet. pic.twitter.com/f3EqtlIL3IMay 23, 2023
Newby reportedly played four shows with the band, two of which took place at the Casbah Club, alongside one at Wallasey venue the Grosvenor Ballroom and the other at Litherland Town Hall. The latter show marked a sea change in the band’s fortunes at home.
“It was that evening that we really came out of our shell and let go. We stood there being cheered for the first time,” remembered John Lennon, in 1967 (via The Beatles Bible).
“This was when we began to think that we were good. Up to Hamburg we’d thought we were OK, but not good enough. It was only back in Liverpool that we realised the difference and saw what had happened to us while everyone else was playing Cliff Richard shit.”
More impressively, Newby did all the shows using a loaner bass – as a lefty.
“I borrowed a bass from a guy called Tommy McGuirk,” recalled Newby to The Echo in 2019. “But of course Tommy was right handed, so I got this bass guitar and… I just played it upside down.”
The Beatles returned to Hamburg and Newby returned to his studies, later becoming a math teacher – albeit one who joked he had a claim to fame as “The Beatles’ first left-handed bassist”.
Later, following his retirement, he joined The Quarrymen performing with previous members of the pre-Beatles skiffle group.