Claude Nobs, the founder and general manager of the Montreux Jazz Festival died Thursday after sustaining injuries from a fall while cross-country skiing in nearby Caux-sur-Montreux on Christmas Eve. He was taken to the hospital and fell into a coma from which he never recovered.
Nobs worked his way from being a chef and director of Montreux’s tourism office, where he organized charity concerts, to overseeing one of the most iconic music festivals in the world.
An early incident involving the rock group Deep Purple, which had come to Montreux to record an album after performing with Frank Zappa, became forever linked with Nobs.
During a fire at Zappa’s concert in 1971, Nobs rushed to save several young concert-goers. Deep Purple’s hit song, “Smoke on the Water,” would memorialize the accident – Nobs as “Funky Claude” pulling kids to safety.
Two years later, Nobs became director of the Swiss branch of Warner, Elektra and Atlantic, a position that gave him added clout to introduce heavyweights on the Montreux stage.