Traducing of Stuart
Howie Casey, leader of the first Liverpool band to play in Hamburg, Derry & the Seniors, was topping the bill at the Kaiserkeller while
the Beatles were playing at the Indra. Promoter Bruno Koschmider decided to have another band during the interval at the Kaiserkeller rather than a jukebox, so he split up the Beatles and the Seniors and another outfit was formed with Casey on sax, Stan Foster on piano, Stuart on bass and a German modern jazz drummer. If Stu couldn't play, Casey certainly wouldn't have tolerated him in this outfit.
Next we come to Klaus Voormann, who was to become a famous bass guitarist appearing with numerous bands over the years and making several records backing each of the solo Beatles.
Klaus said, "He (Stu) was a really good bass player, a very basic bass player, completely different. So basic that you could say he was, at the time, my favourite bass player, but primitive. But of all the people or groups, and when we saw groups later, he was my favourite bass player."
It was Stuart who first began to show Klaus the basics of playing bass guitar.
What happens when a seed in planted in a book like Williams' is that the story grows, and in all subsequent books, mainly by people who never knew him or witnessed his performances, the same story that he couldn't play the bass and performed with his back to the audience is trotted out.
Repeat a story enough times and even some people involved begin to believe it. The mud sticks.
Even Paul McCartney , many years later, was to say, "The problem with Stu was that he couldn't play bass guitar. We had to turn him away in photographs because he'd be doing F-sharp and we'd be holding G."
Initially, all the local musicians were self-taught and in various stages of ability. Paul himself made a hash of it at the New Clubmoor Hall on 18 October 1959, when he attempted to play lead guitar. He played an abominable version of 'Guitar Boogie' and ended his one and only stint at playing lead.
Yet George Harrison would seem to have a different point of view regarding Stu's ability.
When the group returned to Liverpool following their Hamburg debut, Stuart stayed behind and they recruited Chas. Newby to appear on three gigs with them. Then, until Stuart returned, Paul took over on bass.
George had refused to become the group's bass guitarist and wrote to Stuart in Hamburg, "Come home sooner, as if we get a new bass player for the time being, it will be crumby as he will have to learn everything. It's no good with Paul playing bass, we'd decided, that is if he had some kind of bass and amp to play on!"
If Stuart was such a hopeless player as many people who never knew him or saw him maintain, why would George be so anxious to have him back in the group?"
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the January 2001 issue of Beatlefan.
It's interesting to note Paul's comments about Stuart literally decades after his death. Yet, if we ignore hindsight and go back to what Paul felt at the time. He had a completely different opinion. In a 1964 interview in Beat Instrumental, in which he was discussing guitars, Paul commented, "I believe that playing an ordinary guitar first and then transferring to bass has made me a better bass player because it loosened up my fingers. NOT that I'm suggesting that EVERY bass player should learn on ordinary guitar. Stuart Sutcliffe certainly didn't, and he was a great bass man."
It's not unusual for someone to report on their experiences or opinions and then years later, perhaps through hindsight, a faulty memory or by being influenced by what they have read, to come out with something that completely contradicts their previous statements.