Claude Nobs 1936-2012
By Andy Malt | Published on Friday 11 January 2013
Claude Nobs, founder and GM of the Montreux Jazz Festival, has died after sustaining injuries in a skiing accident last month. He was 76.
Born in Montreux Switzerland, while he initially trained as a chef, Nobs later got a job at the Swiss city’s Tourism Office. It was as Director of that body that in 1967 he founded a jazz festival in the city, utilising contacts he had made via Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün of Atlantic Records in the US to secure an impressive array of international talent for the event.
A success from the start, Nobs grew the festival year-on-year, it becoming an important fixture in the jazz world’s calendar and, as the music policy of the programme expanded somewhat, in the wider European festival circuit. And the event continues to enjoy much success today, attracting an eclectic mix of artists, and gaining particular attention for its annual awards.
In the 1970s Nobs’ profile in the European music industry quickly grew beyond his festival, especially when in 1973 he became director of the Swiss branch of Warner, Elektra and Atlantic.
Popular in both industry circles and the artist community, Nobs also had cameos on records from some of the artists he worked with, and is name-checked in the Deep Purple song ‘Smoke On The Water’, which is based on a fire that occurred at a Frank Zappa concert in Montreux, and which notes how Nobs personally rescued some of the young music fans trapped in the burning building with the line “Funky Claude was running in and out pulling kids out the ground”.
Paying tribute to Nobs yesterday, a statement on his festival’s website reads: “For all of us who were fortunate enough to cross your path, you will always remain the one who questioned certainties. “And why not?” you would repeatedly ask when we tried to argue that a project would not be feasible! But you never let challenges get in the way of your dreams – and the Montreux Jazz Festival is the ultimate proof of that! But not the only one. Your audacity resonates in each one of us, as does your strong sense of generosity and sharing. Thank you for taking us where we never thought we could go. We will carry on in your spirit, utilising everything you taught us”.