Former ‘Fill-In’ Beatles bassist Chas Newby has died aged 81

Photo credit: Nick Fewings

Former Beatles ‘backup’ bassist Chas Newby, who was also a member of John Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen, has died aged 81.

Chas Newby, a British musician who briefly played fill-in bass at several Beatles performances in 1960, has died at the age of 81. Newby, the Beatles’ first left-handed bassist, also played in John Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen. A cause of death has not yet been announced.

“It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Chas Newby,” wrote the Cavern Club of Liverpool, where the Beatles began their career. Other tributes to the musician included contributions from former Beatles drummer Pete Best’s brother and Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn.

“Both Pete and I and the entire Best family are absolutely devastated to learn the very sad news of the death of one of the family’s closest friends, Chas Newby, last night,” Roag Best wrote You may know him as the bass guitarist for the Beatles and the Quarrymen, but to us he was the laid-back Chas with the big smile. We will really miss him.”

“He represented Stuart (Sutcliffe) on some dates when the Beatles first returned from Hamburg in late 1960, including the momentous Litherland date,” Lewisohn continues Twitter. “Lately he was also one of the quarry workers. A charming man, always a pleasure to meet.”

A native Liverpudler like the Fab Four, Chas Newby is best known for his brief stint with the group in 1960 after Stuart Sutcliffe, their bassist at the time, returned to Hamburg to focus on his art career. Early Beatles drummer Pete Best suggested Newby, who had played in Best’s group, the Black Jacks.

Newby played with the Beatles for four shows in December 1960: at the Casbah Club in Liverpool on the 17th, at the Grosvenor Ballroom in Liscard on the 24th, at the Litherland Town Hall on the 27th and again at the Casbah Club on the 31st. John Lennon asked him to stay with the group on their second trip to West Germany, but Newby chose to return to university.

“Music was never my livelihood” called Newby during an interview in 2012. “I wanted to study chemistry. John, Paul and George just wanted to be musicians.”

It was only after Lennon and George Harrison refused to switch to bass guitar that Paul McCartney, who had previously played guitar and piano, reluctantly became the band’s bassist – the instrument for which he would arguably become best known in the group.

Newby later taught high school math and played in a charity band called the Racketts. In 2016 he began performing with the reformed Quarrymen.