Founder of Montreux jazz fest in coma after ski fall

Mon Jan 7, 2013 9:31am EST
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GENEVA (Reuters) - Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, one of Europe's most prestigious summer music festivals, is in a coma after a cross-country skiing accident during the holidays, festival organizers revealed on Monday.

The 76-year-old Swiss, who has lured some of the world's greatest artists to Montreux - including Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Prince - was operated on in a Swiss hospital after his fall, it said.

"He has remained to date in a state of unconsciousness. His condition requires further additional tests," the festival board said in a brief statement.

The accident occurred on Christmas Eve while skiing near his home in the village of Caux overlooking Montreux and Lake Geneva, festival secretary-general Mathieu Jaton told Reuters.

Nobs launched the festival in 1967 while working at the resort's tourism office. He became known as "Funky Claude", from a line in the song "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple, about a fire which burned down Montreux casino during a Frank Zappa concert in 1971.

Despite heart surgery some six years ago, he remains festival director, a position he shared during the 1990s with American producer Quincy Jones who returns each year from Los Angeles to introduce new talent.

Nobs often joined musicians on stage, playing harmonica, sometimes accompanied by his dogs.

Sold-out highlights last July included concerts by Bob Dylan, American chanteuse Lana Del Rey and British actor and musician Hugh Laurie.

Jaton is assuming Nob's responsibilities and will ensure smooth management of the 47th edition of the festival set for July 5-20, the statement said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Paul Casciato)

Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobs posing near a guitar given to him by blues legend B. B. King (red) and other instruments and awards after an interview with Reuters in his chalet in Caux in this April 21, 2010 file photograph. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files