By Jim Berkenstadt
First and foremost, I felt that Chas had a common experience with Jimmie Nicol. Both had worked in other bands and had been called in at the last minute to fill in for a missing regular member of The Beatles.
In the case of Newby, bass player Stu Sutcliffe had remained behind in Hamburg to spend Christmas with Astrid Kirchherr. Neither John, George nor Paul wanted to play bass at this point. Pete Best suggested Chas Newby, who had played bass in The Blackjacks with Pete. Chas was home for Christmas, so he had the time to fill in.
However, filling in at the last minute, was where the similarities to Nicol seem to end. In Jimmie Nicol’s case, the goal was to climb to the top of the entertainment mountain and stay there. He performed very well for The Beatles on tour, yet he found the slope back up to the top to be quite slippery and treacherous once his 13 days of fame were over.
Chas Newby on the other hand, felt no pressure to stay on with The Beatles. To him it was just a bunch of buddies having a good time and attracting the girls. To this day, Chas continues to sing and play bass with his pub band, and at the two recent Fests for Beatles Fans. Yet he has had a wonderful professional career as an engineer and teacher, while balancing a family life as a husband and father. I don’t think he ever spent one minute thinking about the “what ifs” of being a Beatle. Jimmie Nicol, on the other hand, was by definition the tragic character in a cautionary tale about how 15 minutes of fame goes to one’s head. He seemed unable to compare his skills as a drummer (realistically) to the songwriting, singing and playing skills of The Beatles. Instead he projected his ego to the “Toppermost of the Poppermost”, mistaking it as his deserved inheritance.
I felt that history had in some ways forgotten Chas Newby’s brief contribution as the first left-handed bassist in The Beatles. Since he was also a friend, I asked Chas to share his similar experiences and differences to Jimmie Nicol in the Foreword. I am so honored by his written contribution and his willingness to join in the festivities by meeting the fans and playing at the Fests in New York and Chicago this year. In the case of Chas Newby, being a temporary member of The Beatles was indeed a happy ending.