Chas Newby, briefly bassist for The Beatles, dies aged 81
Always said he had no regrets about leaving band to go back to university and become a math teacher; McCartney reluctantly took up the bass and global stardom followed
Chas Newby, a bass guitarist who played with The Beatles as a youngster, died Tuesday at the age of 81.
Former Beatles drummer Pete Best, who was with the band before it gained global fame, wrote on Facebook he was “absolutely devastated to hear the very sad news” of Newby’s passing.
“Many of you will know him for playing bass guitar for both The Beatles and [decades later with] 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,” Best wrote. (The Quarrymen was a band formed by John Lennon before he joined the Beatles; Newby played with a re-formed line-up of the group in 2016.)
The Cavern Club Liverpool, where the Beatles first got their start, posted: “It’s with great sadness to hear about the passing of Chas Newby.”
“Interestingly, he was also the first left-handed bass guitarist in The Beatles,” the venue noted, a reference to Paul McCartney who also plays left-handed.
Newby was born in Liverpool in 1941. He joined the Beatles for four concerts in 1960 during a summer break from university, playing alongside McCartney, Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison.
The Beatles had returned from a stint playing live in Hamburg and their original bassist, Stu Sutcliffe, had stayed in Germany. Lennon reportedly asked Newby to stay with the group for a second trip to Hamburg, but he declined. He left the band to continue his university studies, completing a master’s degree in chemical engineering, and eventually becoming a math teacher.
“Music was never going to be a living for me,” Newby told the Sunday Mercury in 2012. “I wanted to do chemistry. John, Paul and George — they just wanted to be musicians.”
According to Bob Spitz’s 2005 “The Beatles: The Biography,” Lennon and George Harrison both declined to switch to bass guitar, so McCartney, a guitarist and pianist, reluctantly took up the instrument; he is regarded as one of the finest bass players of all time.
The Beatles released their first single, “Love Me Do,” in 1962, and began their rise to global stardom with the following year’s “Please, Please Me.”
In a 2012 interview with the Birmingham Mail newspaper, Newby said he left the Beatles because at the time they were being paid just £1 per concert, “which was no living.”
“People sometimes don’t believe me when I say I’ve no regrets,” he said. “But I really haven’t. I have enjoyed my life immensely.”