Stuart Sutcliffe (1940-1962)

Stuart Fergusson Victor Sutcliffe
(23 June 1940 – 10 April 1962)

George, Stu and John.jpg
George, Stu and John

Stuart Sutcliffe was the bass guitarist and occasional vocalist for the Beatles from early 1960 to mid 1961. Along with John Lennon he is credited in coming up with the name “the Beetles”, both he and Lennon were big Buddy Holly fans at the time and were looking for a name similar to Holly’s band the Crickets. Lennon had convinced Sutcliffe to buy a bass guitar and join the group after selling a painting for £65. He purchased a 1959 Hofner 500/5.

“What do you do with £65? We all reminded him over a coffee: ‘Funny you should have got that amount, Stuart – it is very near the cost of a Hofner bass.’ He said, ‘No, I can’t just spend all that.’ It was a fortune in those days, like an inheritance. He said he had to buy canvases or paint. We said, ‘Stu, see reason, love. A Hofner, a big ace group… fame!’ He gave in and bought this big Hofner bass that dwarfed him. The trouble was he couldn’t play well. This was a bit of a drawback, but it looked good, so it wasn’t too much of a problem.”
~ Paul McCartney Anthology

1959 Hohner 500:1
A 1959 model Hofner 500/1 similar to the one owned by Stuart Sutcliffe.

This early era of the Beatles is often referred to as the Hamburg days, as the band played a residency during the last few months of 1960 in the Hamburg red light district. The band were still yet to have Ringo Starr on board as a drummer and performed as a 5 piece with Paul McCartney playing the second rhythm guitar and Pete Best playing the drums. They performed under the name The Silver Beetles. It was during this time that Sutcliffe, after a haircut from Astrid Kirchherr ,introduced the mop hairstyle that became part of the iconic early 60s rock look, and was made famous by the Beatles.

When Sutcliffe left the band to focus on his Art and painting studies he loaned Paul his bass for several months until McCartney could purchase his own. Sutcliffe was studying art in Germany at the time of his death. He died from an aneurysm after experiencing severe headaches on the 10th of April, 1962. He was 21.

Beatles Hamburg.jpg
The Silver Beetles in the early days, (from Lto R) Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe

There are only a handful of tunes recorded that Stuart Sutcliffe played bass on. These were all from a demos session recorded in a bathroom at the Paul McCartney’s parents house in 1960, they were released in the Beatles Anthology set in 1995.


YOU’LL BE MINE (1960)


Hallelujah,I Love Her So (1960)


Cayenne (1960)

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