Former ‘Fill-In’ Beatles Bass Player Chas Newby Dies Aged 81

Chas Newby dies
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Chas Newby dies
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Photo Credit: Nick Fewings

Former “fill-in” Beatles bass player Chas Newby — who was also a member of John Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen, has died at age 81.

Chas Newby, a British musician who briefly played as a fill-in bassist for the Beatles during several gigs in 1960, has died aged 81. The Beatles’ first left-handed bassist, Newby also played in John Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen. A cause of death has yet to be announced.

“It’s with great sadness to hear about the passing of Chas Newby,” wrote The Cavern Club Liverpool, where the Beatles began their career. Other tributes to the musician have included posts from the brother of former Beatles drummer Pete Best and Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn.

“Both Pete and I and the whole Best family (are) absolutely devastated to hear the very sad news with regards to one of the (family’s) closest friends, Chas Newby, passing last night,” wrote Roag Best. “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.”

“He deputized for Stuart (Sutcliffe) on a few dates when the Beatles returned from Hamburg the first time, end-1960, including the momentous Litherland date,” writes Lewisohn on Twitter. “Latterly, he’s been one of the Quarrymen too. A charming man, always a pleasure to meet.”

A native Liverpudlian like the Fab Four, Chas Newby is most famous for his brief run 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 been playing with Best’s group, the Black Jacks. 

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

“Music was never going to be a living for me,” said Newby during a 2012 interview. “I wanted to do chemistry. John, Paul, and George, they just wanted to be musicians.”

Only after Lennon and George Harrison declined to switch to bass guitar did Paul McCartney, who previously played guitar and piano, reluctantly become the band’s bass player — the instrument for which he would arguably become best known in the group.

Newby went on to teach high school mathematics and played in a charity band called the Racketts. In 2016, he began performing with the reformed Quarrymen.