23 May, 2023
I am greatly saddened to report that Charles ‘Chas’ Newby has passed away at the age of 81.
Chas first enters the Beatles’ story in 1959 when, as a guitarist in a group called the Barmen, he performed at the Pillar Club in ‘Lowlands,’ Haymans Green where he first encountered George Harrison. George was playing there during what he would later refer to as his ‘moonlighting period’ as a member of the Les Stewart Quartet. Chas would later tell Mark Lewisohn  that even at that stage, 'George could play Carl Perkins better than Carl Perkins. He was an order of magnitude better than everyone else, and everyone recognised that'.
another member of the Barmen, Bill Barlow were friends with Pete Best, the
three attending the Collegiate School. In
August 1959 the Casbah Club opened across the road from Lowlands in the
basement of Pete’s house. Many of the Pillar Club regulars started going to the
Casbah as well and it was here that Chas first saw the Quarry Men, then
comprising of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ken Brown. He
was really impressed by the fact that they could all sing, and particularly how
they harmonised on numbers such as Three Cool Cats, 'which was brilliant'.
Pete’s mum Mona ('a great character, an absolutely brilliant lady' Chas remembered) gave the Quarry Men had a residency at the Casbah from the opening night in August 1959 until early 1961, when, following a row with over their fee they stormed out vowing never to return. In their place came a new band, The Blackjacks, a four-piece including former Barmen Chas Newby and Bill Barlow, former Quarry Man Ken Brown (all three on guitars) and Pete Best on drums, with Chas doing all the singing.
Pete joined the Beatles in August 1960 and went to Hamburg. Chas went off to college in St Helens.
- 17 December at the Casbah Club
- 24 December (Christmas Eve) at the Grosvenor Ballroom, Liscard, Wirral
- 27 December, Litherland Town Hall
- 31 December (New Year’s Eve) at the Casbah Club
It was that evening that we really came out of our shell and let go. We stood there being cheered for the first time. This was when we began to think that we were good. Up to Hamburg we'd thought we were OK, but not good enough. It was only back in Liverpool that we realised the difference and saw what had happened to us while everyone else was playing Cliff Richard shit.
Speaking in 2012, Chas said he had no regrets about not sticking with the Beatles saying, 'to me then it was just four gigs with a different band, music was never going to be a living for me. All of us at that time were thinking what we were going to do with our lives, some doing teaching, or science, or whatever. I wanted to do chemistry. John, Paul, and George, they just wanted to be musicians.
They had been away in Hamburg. They’d played a hell of a lot over there, so they were very tight, very proficient, and they gave it some stick.
It was in the Warwickshire town that they had son Steve and daughter Jacqueline. Chas worked there until he retired in 1990. He then retrained as a maths teacher at Warwick University, before starting his job at Droitwich High School in Worcestershire. He explained, 'I needed something else to do and I thought being a teacher would be good. I loved every minute of it – it was great. It was nice to be able to give something back. Some of my colleagues had been doing it for years, so were a bit fed up, especially when I turned up on my Harley Davidson motorbike looking like an old rocker.'
Sadly, his pupils were more interested in 1990s groups like the Spice Girls and Take That than their teacher’s amazing part in the story of the worlds most successful musical act.
Having practiced music in his spare time with a charity group, the Racketts, a 2016 meeting with Rod Davis at Bestfest in the Casbah Club led to Chas joining the reformed Quarrymen, the band John Lennon formed that later evolved into the Beatles.