Funky Claude of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" Passes Away
By: Gary Graff

Claude Nobs, the founder of the famed Montreux Jazz Festival -- and immortalized in Deep Purple's 1972 hit "Smoke on the Water" -- has passed away at the age of 76 from injuries suffered in a skiing accident on December 21 in Switzerland. He'd been in a coma ever since.

A statement on the festival website reads: "On January 10 you left us, only a few days after your accident in your beloved mountains, overlooking the lake you were so fond of. You will always remain the one who questioned certainties. 'And why not?' You would repeatedly ask the same question when we tried to explain why a project would not be feasible. Reality was never challenged over your wildest dreams – the Montreux Jazz Festival is the ultimate proof of that. We carry on, and will continue to carry on in your spirit everything you taught us. Thank you, Claude."

Nobs started the Montreux Jazz Festival during 1967 while he was director of the city's Tourism Office and grew it to the second largest jazz festival in the world, bringing in not only iconic jazz artists but also incorporation rock and R&B, including appearances by Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and many others.

But Nobs is best known to rock fans from the "Smoke on the Water" lyric line "Funky Claude was running in and out/pulling kids out the ground," recounting his heroic efforts during a 1971 fire at the Montreux Casino while Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention were playing there.

Nobs also served as director of the Swiss branch of the Warner/Elektra/Atlantic conglomerate during the 70s and was heard as the stage announcer on Jethro Tull's 1978 live album "Bursting Out."

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced

CLICK HERE to learn out more about Gary Graff and his award-winning music journalism including the books he has written on Bob Seger, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.

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