Been and Gone: Smoke on Water legend and civil rights campaigner
- 2 February 2013
- From the section Magazine
Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser-reported - people of the past month.
The name of Claude Nobs will be forever enshrined in Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, the song with perhaps the most famous riff in rock history. Nobs was a co-founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, which by the early 1970s had grown to embrace rock artists such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. In 1971, the Montreux casino caught fire during a performance by Frank Zappa after an audience member fired a flare gun at the ceiling. Nobs dragged a number of concert goers to safety earning himself the title Funky Claude in Deep Purple's song. Born the son of a baker, Nobs developed an early love of jazz. He got a job in the local tourist office and began organising concerts to promote his home town. He became friends with many of the artists, and delighted in entertaining them in his chalet after their performance.
During the 1960s and 70s, aspiring home cooks would turn for inspiration to the cookery writer Katie Stewart. Her down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach was in stark contrast to contemporaries like Fanny Cradock, who were still heavily influenced by the French cordon-bleu style. Stewart's recipes were geared to the realities of how the average family wanted to dine and included tips for making such staples as pancakes and orange marmalade. She originally trained in Paris before becoming cookery writer for the Daily Mirror. She moved onto Woman's Journal and was also food writer for the Times. The Times Cookery Book, published in 1972, still remains a firm favourite, as does her Pooh Cook Book which contained recipes for Smackerels and Elevenses and Expotitions to Hot Chocolate for a very Blusterous Day. More recently she was the cookery writer for Homes and Antiques magazine.
In June 1963, 19-year-old James Hood arrived to register as a student at the University of Alabama. In a dramatic stand-off, broadcast live on TV, the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, refused to let the black student into what was then an all-white university. President Kennedy called out the National Guard and Hood, together with another fellow African-American student, was escorted into the building by federal marshals. Hood's stay at the university lasted just two months and he was forced to quit after threats to his life. He went on to study in Detroit and rose to become the deputy police chief in that city. In later years he and Wallace became friends after the former governor, who was paralysed following an assassination attempt, renounced his segregationist views. Hood's experience gave great impetus to the growing civil rights movement and paved the way for the extension of voting rights for African-American people.
Motorists accused of drink-driving will find themselves blowing into a device developed by the Welsh scientist Tom Parry Jones. A crude device incorporating a tube containing chemical crystals had originally been invented in the early 50s by an Indiana police officer. In 1967 Britain introduced a law limiting the amount of alcohol a driver could have in their body and Parry Jones set up a company to produce the new devices. But they proved unreliable and many police officers continued the time-honoured practice of getting a suspect driver to walk along a white line. Parry Jones developed an improved electronic device called the Alcolmeter and this was finally approved for police use in 1979. Unlike the earlier model, there was no longer any need for a separate blood or urine test back at the police station. He later sold his company and went on to develop devices for detecting toxic gases.
Gussie Moran's appearance at the 1949 Wimbledon tournament caused palpitations among a generation of young men - and among the Wimbledon hierarchy. Refused permission to wear a coloured outfit, Moran turned to the designer Teddy Tinling who created her an all-white outfit which clearly revealed her lace trimmed knickers. The organisers were in a state of panic as the famously purse-lipped dowager Queen Mary was due to watch the match and Moran was accused of bringing vulgarity into tennis. She was knocked out in the first round of the singles and later said she regretted wearing the outfit as it had affected her concentration. However she was happy to parade it in department stores on her return to the US. She was back at Wimbledon in 1950 but in a much more demure get-up. Both her career and personal life went downhill in later years and she ended her days in a run-down apartment.
Bass player Nic Potter's inventive rhythms were an integral part of the band Van der Graaf Generator. Formed at Manchester University their brand of progressive rock was somewhat darker than many of their contemporaries, prompting comparison with King Crimson. Potter joined the band in 1970 as they were recording their most commercially successful album, The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other. He featured on three tracks of their next recording but quit after becoming dissatisfied with the direction of the band's music. He rejoined the band in 1977 but only for a brief spell although he continued to record and tour with Van der Graff's Peter Hammill. He also released a string of solo albums throughout the 1980s all of which were remastered and reissued in 2009.
Among others who died in January were:
Tennessee Waltz and How Much is that Doggie in the Window singer Patti Page
Award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster Robert Kee
Former BBC director general Alasdair Milne
Writer of the Dear Abby advice column Pauline Phillips
Death Wish director and noted bon viveur Michael Winner
Last survivor of singing group The Andrews Sisters Patty Andrews