Chas played bass for the Beatles in 1960 when they returned to Liverpool having left Stuart in Hamburg. He started to play with the Quarrymen early in 2016.
“I was born in June, 1941 and for the next twenty-seven years lived in the family home in the Everton district of Liverpool. In 1952 I moved to the Liverpool Collegiate School, which was where my musical career began. The Barmen Skiffle Group was a bunch of friends, including Bill Barlow, Fred Kilshaw, Sam Rourke, Colin Wheeler and Ray Wong, who like the Quarrymen, played at school dances and entered skiffle competitions. We played at the Cavern Jazz Club in February 1958, not many weeks after the Quarrymen. With the demise of skiffle and the onset of A levels, the group disbanded.
We all left school in 1959 and our good friend Pete Best told us about the opening of the Casbah Coffee Club in the basement of his family home in West Derby. We were all there for the opening night, which featured a live band called the Quarrymen, John, Paul, George and Ken Brown. After a few months, Ken dropped out of the band and convinced Pete to start another band. Pete brought in Bill Barlow and myself and after some practice sessions the Blackjacks hit the stage at the Casbah.
In the spring of 1960, careers and higher education raised their ugly heads and Pete was left with a kit of drums and no band. The situation was quickly remedied when Pete joined the Beatles for their first visit to Hamburg in August 1960. During this trip, the bass player Stuart Sutcliffe, a talented painter, met Astrid Kirscherr. When the band returned to Liverpool, Stuart decided to spend Christmas with Astrid and her family.
This was how, at Pete’s suggestion, I became a temporary bass player with the Beatles and played four gigs in December 1960. We played the Casbah Club twice, a trip to the Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey and the seminal first appearance at Litherland Town Hall. At this point in their career, Paul was playing rhythm guitar and so my real claim to fame was that I was the first left handed bass player to play with the Beatles.
After my eventful Christmas vacation I returned to college and work. Since leaving school I had been permanently employed by Pilkington Glass, based in St Helens and they were supporting my continuing professional and academic life. As the sixties progressed, the Beatles conquered the world. Margaret, my future wife, and I made our own plans for the future. We married in 1968 and I completed my MSc in Chemical Engineering in 1970. We moved to Alcester, a small market town in south Warwickshire, to raise our family and settle down. Our son Steve was born in 1972 and our daughter Jacqueline in 1976. We made frequent trips to Liverpool to see our families and maintain contact with our friends from the past. Few people in our new life knew about my very peripheral part in the genesis of the most significant group of musicians in the twentieth century. However, that changed in the mid eighties as Pete published his first book, closely followed by Mark Lewisohn’s book detailing all the live performances of the Beatles from the Quarrymen gigs to their last live concert at Candlestick Park in 1966.
I was working in the aerospace industry until 1990 and then changed careers to become a teacher of Mathematics. Margaret was running her own company, selling furniture imported from Europe to hotels and social clubs. Our two children were on the verge of pursuing their own futures when disaster struck. Margaret died suddenly in November 1992. Recovering from this setback took some time, but with the help of family and friends, the three of us eventually returned to a new normality. Both of my children left Alcester to find their own futures, but within a few years each came back to live here with their own partners and set up their own homes. So now I have become a sort of “scouse” Don, with an extended family including four grandchildren, all living within a few minutes walk of each other
I retired in 1998 to concentrate on the things that I wanted to do and as he had done in the past, Pete Best played a part. In August 1999, with his brothers Rory and Roag, Pete reopened the Casbah to celebrate its fortieth anniversary. The Blackjacks were reformed for the event and Pete, Bill, Ken and I performed a short set during the evening celebrations in the Casbah, unchanged after forty years. This renewed my interest in playing and after a few months Bill and I set up a new band, Blue Suede Feet, based in the Bedford area. In 2001 I joined a local band here in Alcester called the Racketts. Although it might seem an unusual musical direction for a rock n’ roll bass player, I also joined our local male voice choir. This has enabled me to sing in some remarkable venues, including the Royal Albert Hall, the Duomo in Florence, the Symphony Hall and Town Hall in Birmingham and last year, St George’s Chapel in the royal residence at Windsor.
The author Jim Berkenstadt contacted me a few years ago about a project he was researching relating to Jimmie Nicol, the drummer who played with the Beatles in 1964 when Ringo was rushed to hospital days before their tour to the far East and Australia. We met up in London in the spring of 2012 and he very kindly asked me to write the foreword to his book The Beatle Who Vanished. This was published in 2013 and as a result, I was invited to Beatle Fests in Secaucus, NJ and then Chicago to help promote the book. The trips to the US enabled me to meet up with other authors and American Beatles fans and play a few tunes with the other artists such as the house band Liverpool, Billy J. Kramer and ex Bad Finger guitarist Joey Molland. I later appeared on Jude Sutherland Kessler’s radio show, The John Lennon Hour, broadcast from Monroe, Louisisana.
In August 2013, Bill Barlow and I made one of our regular trips to Liverpool for the BestFest at the Casbah Club to play a couple of songs with the Pete Best Band. The Quarrymen were also playing and so I was able to make contact with Rod and the rest of the guys. So, from all of us playing in Skiffle groups in the nineteen fifties, a sixty year old circle of events has joined up and I am now the bass player with the band that was the precursor to the Beatles, John Lennon’s original Quarrymen. I am so looking forward to the future.”