Chas Newby

The one and only photo of Chas with his guitar from back then.

We are sad to have to announce another death, Chas Newby (18 June 1941 – 22 May 2023) has passed away. In Beatles history, we know Chas as the first left-handed bass player in the Beatles, when he stood in for Stuart Sutcliffe for a short period after John, Paul, George and Pete had returned home to Liverpool from their first Hamburg period. Stuart remained in Hamburg with his beloved Astrid and in his absence Chas Newby stepped in on bass guitar for the four concerts the Beatles had been booked for in December 1960. Chas first played in a band called The Barmen, and then went on to put together a group called Blackjacks with friends, which included Pete Best and Ken Brown. It was Best who suggested Chas to the rest of The Beatles.

17 December at the Casbah Club, Christmas Eve 24 December at the Grosvenor Ballroom, Liscard, 27 December, Litherland Town Hall and New Year’s Eve 31 December at the Casbah Club were the concerts Chas played as bassist in The Beatles. You can read Newby’s account of the Litherland Town Hall gig over at Culture Sonar.

When The Beatles were returning to Hamburg to play at the Top Ten Club in 1961, it has been said that John Lennon asked Chas if he wanted to continue as the Beatles’ bass player, but he chose to go back to the college where he was studying. It was only during a break from his studies that Chas was back in Liverpool during Christmas. After Newby’s departure, Paul McCartney restrung his guitar with three piano wires to play bass at a February Casbah Club gig. When the group travelled to Hamburg, he bought himself a real bass guitar, the violin shaped Höfner.

After leaving college, Chas gained a masters degree in Chemical Engineering from Manchester University. In 1971 he and Margaret moved to Alcester after getting work with Triplex. It was in the Warwickshire town that they had son Steve and daughter Jacqueline.
The firm, based in Kings Norton, Birmingham, manufactures windscreens for trains and aircraft, including RAF Harrier jump jets and the Concorde fleet.
Chas worked there until he retired in 1990, when he retrained as a maths teacher at Warwick University, before starting his job at Droitwich High School in Worcestershire.

Having practiced music in his spare time with a charity group, the Racketts, Chas Newby joined The Quarry Men in 2016, and he has been with the group until the very end. This makes him the only man who was first a member of The Beatles and then a member of the Quarry Men.

Chas Newby with a Höfner 501 bass guitar at the Penny Lane Development Trust in 2020. Photo: © Mark Ashworth

Roag Best posted about Chas: “Both Pete and I and the whole Best family absolutely devasted to hear the very sad news with regards to one of the families closest friends Chas Newby passing last night. Many of you will know him for playing bass guitar for both The Beatles and The Quarrymen, but to us he was laid back Chas with the big smile. We’ll truly miss him. Forever in our thoughts. God bless you Chas x”

Here is a video from a concert in Strawberry Field in Liverpool.

3 Responses

  1. Stephen says:

    A sad loss.
    I was aware of his brief time in the Beatles when I attended ‘Best Fest’ at Pete Best’s house in 2013, excited to see the original Quarrymen. They were great, but Chas was there too, and played with Pete and Bill Barlow – the three surviving members of the Black Jacks (Ken Brown being the fourth). They were really fantastic in an unrehearsed way. “We’re only going to play songs from 1958 because we haven’t learned any since”.

    I had the pleasure of speaking to Chas and Bill afterwards. Two very nice, welcoming, sharp and funny older gents.

    I believe that was the night that Chas met the Quarrymen for the first time – Rod, Len, Colin and Duff – and within a couple of years he was playing with them full time. A great – and fun – end to his retirement from teaching, and his re-immersement in music.

    Good chap. Good stories, and a real lack of ego.

  2. H says:

    Sorry but the first photo shows him playing a 6 string electric guitar, not a bass, as the caption claims

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