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History Files: The Genesis Of Clair Bros To Today

The incredible journey from a Christmas gift PA system to a global powerhouse in the touring business

By Jeff MacKay November 20, 2013

The four-way systems contained W boxes for low end, a double-12 cone for the mid-range – built by Clair Brothers, JBL radials for the high frequency, and JBL for the super-high frequencies. In 1969 and 1970, Clair switched from Altec Lansing to JBL.

The year 1970 also saw Bruce Jackson join the company, who would bring new design ideas to the company.

“We also added a lot of accounts at this time, both American and English,” Roy notes. “Blood, Sweat and Tears was a full-time account that gave us some financial stability. We then later added Elton John, Moody Blues, Yes, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, the Jacksons, etc., as accounts.”

In 1974, a large leap forward was made by the company with the creation of its S4, single-box loudspeaker system (the first all-in-one four-way box), with its hanging grid system. Previewed on Rod Stewart’s tour that year, the S4 created industry buzz, to the point that when Mick Jagger came to Stewart’s show, Clair Brothers was hired for the Rolling Stones 1975 tour after he heard the system.

The Clair Brothers S4 rig.

The S4 included high frequency drivers from JBL (2 x 18-inch, 4 x 10-inch, 2 x 2-inch, and 2 x 2405). Truck dimensions played an important role in the sizing of the S4, to allow them to fit two across in a standard trailer.

The S4 lasted more than 36 years, with updates as needed. The loudspeakers were even used in 2008 for the closing of the NY Mets stadium in New York City.

Clair Brothers’ patented i4 system along with its engineering digital processing continued to drive the company to the forefront of the audio industry. The Lake I/O originally designed by Clair Brothers, which was sold to Lake was a very important part of this next step in the history of innovation.

The dream that Gene and Roy started when they formed Clair Brothers is being kept alive with the second generation, namely Troy and Barry Clair. The company has formed two divisions, with one son handling each one: Troy handles the touring side, while Barry has run the systems installation side since 1989.

Clair Brothers provided sound for Live Aid in 1985.

Nearby Manheim, PA, is currently the site of a new facility constructed to house the systems division of the company, Clair Brothers Audio Systems, as the company has outgrown its headquarters. The freed- up space allowed the touring division to continue its own expansion.

Clair Brothers is proud of its rich history, from supporting just one show per night with the Four Seasons in 1966, to now delivering high quality sound systems to a multitude of world-class acts, night after night, the world over. The story continues.

Related Articles:
The 1983 US Festival, A Cooperative Effort By Clair Brothers & Showco
Clair Brothers At the LA Sports Arena With Bruce Springsteen
PSW Live Chat With Bruce Jackson, March 26, 2003
Bruce Jackson, A Life In Sound

Jeff MacKay is a writer, editor and photographer focused on the professional audio industry.


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