February 4, 1936 – January 10, 2013
Claude Nobs will be fondly remembered as the man who created the historic Montreux Jazz Festival. Born in the Swiss city that later hosted his annual event, Nobs organized the first installment while working for the Tourism Office of Montreux in 1967. The inaugural one included sets from the likes of Jack DeJohnette, Charles Lloyd, and Keith Jarrett. The festival was quickly recognized as a premier gathering of jazz greats from the world over. Nobs also made a mark on rock and roll as well. As it turns out, Nobs was present when the Montreux Casino infamously burned down during a Frank Zappa concert. He heroically rescued several people who were taking cover in the casino. Deep Purple memorialized the event in song which included a lyrical cameo by Nobs – “Funky Claude was running in and out pulling kids out the ground.” That song is “Smoke on the Water.” During the ’70s, Nobs worked for the local branch of Warner, Elektra and Atlantic Records. While the festival expanded to include musical acts beyond the jazz world, it swelled to over 200,000 attendees. It is considered one of the most prestigious music festivals in the world today. On December 24, 2012, Claude Nobs suffered a skiing accident that left him in a coma. He was 76 when he died from those injuries on January 10, 2013.
Thanks to Harold Lepidus at the Bob Dylan Examiner for the assist.