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September 5/6/7/8 - 2019

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Montreux Celebration

Montreux musical history between 1960 and 1968

It was at the beginning of the 1960s that Raymond Jaussi, director of the Montreux Tourist Office, noticed Claude Nobs and offered him to join his team as an accountant.

Shortly after his arrival, Jaussi immediately recognized Claude Nobs' innovative spirit and entrusted him with the organization of events on behalf of the city of Montreux.

Claude Nobs then organized many concerts within the Montreux Youth Association, of which he was one of the founders, and then in 1961 for the Golden Rose Festival.

In 1962, Claude Nobs brought the famous bluesman John Lee Hooker to Montreux for $250. He is also in charge of organizing the final gala of the Golden Rose TV Festival the following year. He then went in the Beatles office on Carnaby Street and offered them to come and play in Montreux the following year. The band accepts the offer. He then called the french-speaking Swiss television station that organized the Festival and got the following answer: "Ah, the Beatles... Yeah, we will wait for next year". He understood that the answer was negative ! The Beatles success did not appear until early 1963 with the song "Please Please Me". Until then, the English band had a relatively mixed success with their first single, "Love Me Do", released in 1962.

Victory : the Rolling Stones play Montreux !

In 1964, Claude Nobs found a young English band and invited them for the first time outside their country. It's the Rolling Stones ! This evening, with Petula Clark, was co-produced with ITV Network and broadcast live. The Stones played three songs filmed by the BBC as part of the Golden Rose competition.

No one knew them at that time and they travelled by boat from Geneva to Montreux where their plane had landed a few hours before. Five hours journey are required with a coffee break in Lausanne. Claude Nobs and some friends welcomed them. But the crowd is sparse and Nobs has to run the streets to bring the audience to the concert. A thousand people will still attend their performance.

Following this masterstroke, Nobs, who had started as an accountant to vice-director, left his job at the Montreux tourist office to devote himself fully to the organization of events and concerts. He travelled accross Europe and abroad for the promotion of tourism in the Montreux region.

1965, the meeting that will change everything !

In 1965, during his first trip across the Atlantic, more precisely to New York on behalf of the tourist office, he spontaneously went to the offices of Atlantic Records, whose address appeared on his favourite records. He asked to see the brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, directors of the this well known label.

Without any appointment, he naturally gets packed up but insists by explaining that he comes especially from Switzerland in order to meet them. This argument finally convinced Nesuhi Ertegün to receive him, his father having been Turkish ambassador to Bern for several years. Claude Nobs then discusses for a few moments with Nesuhi Ertegün the project of creating a Jazz Festival in Montreux. He is enthusiastic about the idea and assures him of his support. A great complicity was born between the two people who shared the same passion for music.

This event, which testifies to Claude Nobs' audacity and spontaneity, marks a decisive moment in the history of the city of Montreux.

1967, the first Montreux Jazz Festival

With his experience and contacts, Claude Nobs persuaded Raymond Jaussi to create a summer musical event. He was given "carte blanche" for 1967, with a budget of 10,000 francs.

He then contacted two people: Géo Voumard (jazz pianist and head of variety programmes at the RSR) and René Langel (editor-in-chief of the newspaper La Tribune de Lausanne). The three friends organize together this first edition of the festival, their close friends take care of the decoration, catering, promotion, etc. They decided to launch the jazz festival on the model of the Golden Rose, i.e. in the form of a jazz ensemble competition.

On Friday, June 16, 1967, the first Montreux Jazz Festival opened its doors to the public. The festival's ticketed concerts then last for three days. It takes place within the walls of the Montreux Casino and offers, among other things, a competition of twelve European jazz bands. Each country in competition sends its best band.

The RSR records the entire festival and according to a contract established in advance, each national radio station represented must broadcast the entire show. The Radio Suisse Romande (RSR) offered exemplary sound quality. This was an undeniable argument to encourage artists to record their performances. Free concerts and music workshops are organized during the day while jam sessions with many musicians take place in the evening.

"It was totally improvised," laughs Claude Nobs. I was in the oven and at the mill. I picked up Charles Lloyd myself at Geneva airport with my Lagonda, a car that I still have today", said Claude Nobs. Nevertheless, 1200 people attended the first Montreux Jazz Festival. "At the end of the three days, we said to ourselves : Well, it works ! Should we do it again next year ?" comments Nobs.

In parallel, Claude Nobs continues to organize concerts for the Golden Rose and other events in Montreux such as the Super Pop Festival, created in 1969.

The consecration for Montreux!

On June 15, 1968, Bill Evans recorded a live album during the second edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival. On the Casino Kursaal stage, Bill Evans is on piano, Eddie Gomez on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. This album, which was the only recording of their band that lasted less than a year, was awarded a Grammy Award in the USA the following year in 1969.

What a huge promotion for the city of Montreux ! The cover of this album is a picture of the castle of Chillon. This record clearly made it possible to make Montreux known in the US !

Discover the rest of the story, on the page: Montreux musical history in 1969

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Videos

Montreux Jazz Festival 1967

Journalist Pierre Verdan talks to Géo Voumard. At that time, he was the general secretary and co-founder with Claude Nobs and René Langel of the brand new Montreux Jazz Festival. It is 1967, the year of the first edition.

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