Swiss Folk Music & the Mystery of Fritz Schmutz
Back in the summer of 2016 I was contacted by a nice gentleman, Rolf Meister, from Switzerland who had come across this site and was researching a recent record find. Rolf was combing through a Swiss second hand store when he came across some very obscure items on Denver’s Band Box label.
Rolf wrote at that time “I found here in Switzerland in a secondhand-shop 2 EP-Covers but only 1 EP of Fritz Schmutz, released on Band Box. I searched the internet about that label and found your website. But I could’nt find the EP’s. So I think you would be interested in the scans. Please find them attached.”
Then Rolf followed with this “Funny – When I bought the EP, I saw the second Cover and thought it would be a duplicate. When I was at home I realised that the songs on the EP did not match with the cover… some days later I went to that shop again to get the other cover and I was checking all records if I would find the other EP. I couldn’t find it… I bought them because I think it is funny to find Swiss Folk-Music on foreign labels – on labels I never expect that kind of music.”
And so we learned there were definitely (at least) two extended play recordings by Fritz Schmutz both warranting a picture cover and both pressed on vinyl with the full Band Box label treatment (vs. a one-off acetate pressing). The release date assigned by a 45 Cat expert for the Schmutz E.P.’s is 1969 for the first and 1970 for the second.
Fritz Schmutz recordings are not listed in Vicky Morosan’s ‘official’ master recording log which she hand wrote back in the mid 1990’s and provided to former Colorado Music Hall of Fame board member Doc Krieger – this at a time when she was soliciting the possible sale of the Band Box master recording library. As far as is known, those masters still reside with Vicky’s daughter who served as secretary/receptionist/assistant at the Band Box Sheridan Blvd., location in North Denver.
So skip ahead to about a week ago (November, 2017) – Writes Rolf “Yesterday I had “Fritz Schmutz” again in my hands… I hoped to find the second EP. I was once again at that secondhand-shop, where I bought the EP, but couldn’t find it. I wanted to go there again and try my luck, but they turned the whole building down – no shop anymore…”
So we know that the second EP cover (without record enclosed) never surfaced again after Rolf briefly glanced at it in 2016 thinking it was a duplicate cover, and is probably now tucked away in a Swiss landfill (don’t know if they do land fills in that very tidy country) or who knows?
So how did this Band Box scarcity find it’s way to Switzerland?
Fritz Schmutz – Who Are You & Where Have You Gone?
With Rolf Meister digging into the Fritz Schmutz history a bit further we learn that “……after some wrong hits I found something… in the blog of Andi Jacomet (who is also interested in chairlifts, skilifts and similar). He did researches about the company Städeli. He wrote in his blog-entry dd 10-07-2017 this sentence: “Dazu trugen auch Originale wie Fritz Schmutz bei, der die Städeli-Anlagen im Westen der USA erfolgreich vertrieb und den ich 2006 in Colorado besuchte” … means: ‘Originals like Fritz Schmutz helped to make the company (Städeli) successful; he was responsible for the support and sale of Städeli-lifts in the west of the US; and I (Andi Jacomet) met him in Colorado in 2006.”
And so we have placed Fritz in Colorado here in the new millennial. Chairs lifts and ski lifts are a way of life in Switzerland, probably almost an art form.
“I met Fritz during a trip to Colorado ten years ago. My connection is “purely t-bar”, I run a website on old ski lifts and Fritz was the US representative of a well-known Swiss ski lift manufacturer. Fritz also worked for other constructors before. The fact that he installed the first chairlift in New Zealand (where he also met his wife) makes him a “prime source” for ski lift historians.”
Andi followed with a link to a huge collection of ski lift history-related photos where we obtain a glance at none other than Fritz Schmutz shown in this photo (and many others) in the middle: (Visit the Historical Site of Andi Jacomet Here)
Andi further explained to Rolf that he had first met Fritz in Switzerland’s capitol city – Berne several years ago – but had not been in recent contact. Andi provided an obituary for a Nellie Grace Schmutz who was the wife of Fritz and from that we learn that the couple along with their four sons, resided in Boulder, Colorado. Nellie passed away on Christmas Day in 2013 at the age of 79. She was born in Auckland, New Zealand where she met Fritz while they were working for the Mt. Rauphhu, New Zealand Ski Club, marrying in January of 1956. They remained in New Zealand for a few years before moving to Flims, Switzerland and then moving to the United States to the front range town of Boulder in 1967.
Nellie became involved with horses later in her life after moving to Colorado and garnered several competitive awards. She also was a member of several equestrian based organizations.
Making Contact with Fritz
Through the efforts of Andi Jacomet I finally did locate Fritz Schmutz now living in the community of Niwot, Colorado – situated not to the east of Boulder. He is doing well. He recalled his one recording session in the Band Box studio in Denver back in 1969. He relates, “When I recorded or played the accordion in public it was always just out of the blue!” He played around Boulder casually sometimes with others but nothing on a regular basis. Fritz still plays the accordion today and kindly invited me to stop by his home sometime to enjoy a Swiss folk tune or two!
The Ski Club reference in the obituary bodes well for another important part of Fritz Schmutz life – that being competitive skiing. The photo album provided by Andi includes some references to the achievements of Fritz. From an Auckland, New Zealand news clipping from the 1960’s: “A Swiss – F. Schmutz, aged 25, won both giant slalom titles, open and amateur, in the national events on Mt. Raupehu this afternoon. Ski-ing with complete disregard for natural hazards, he ‘flew’ the one and a half mile course in the outstanding time of 1 minute 54.1 seconds, 8 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.”
In all of the information provided by Rolf and Andi – I could not locate any reference to the musical side of Fritz Schmutz – that is until Andi – as almost an afterthought – told me that he was attaching a few photos taken during his Colorado visit to the home of Fritz. And there it was! The missing link to Fritz’s moment long ago in the Band Box studio – not only an accordion – but quite a collection of accordion’s – tape deck etc., in the possession of the Schmutz family.
Here we see no less than five accordions!
Band Box EP 400 – 1969 (record missing)
Band Box EP 401 – 1969