Lititz, PA (December 4, 2013)—Walter Eugene Clair (known to many as Gene), co-founder of the live sound reinforcement company Clair Brothers, died December 3, 2013 at the age of 73 due to an illness.
Founded in 1966, Clair Brothers has become arguably the largest live audio provider in the world, supporting tours for artists including Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Carrie Underwood, Florence + the Machine, Jack White, Katy Perry and more.
Gene was born May 6, 1940 to Roy B. Clair and Ellen Mae (Ulrich) Clair, in Lititz, Pennsylvania, where he remained a lifelong resident. A graduate of Warwick High School, he went on to earn a degree in Engineering from Penn State University. While working as electricians for Franklin & Marshall College in the 1960s, he and his brother, Roy Clair, provided the sound for musical group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and following the show, the band was so impressed with the audio quality that it invited Gene and Roy to tour with the act. This launched the start of Clair Brothers, and throughout his career, Gene served as a live audio engineer for a roster of artists that included Elton John, The Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, Michael Jackson and Peter Wolf.
After selling his end of the business to his son Troy in 1995, Gene divided his time between Lititz and his mountain home in Sinnemahoning, PA. He was also a member of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association’s Board of Directors, and spent every Penn State home game entertaining friends and family with tailgating extravaganzas.
Upon hearing the news of Gene’s death, the audio industry took to social media to offer memories and condolences to Gene’s family. Michael Tait, founder of Tait Towers, the Lititz, PA-based provider of staging and scenic construction for touring productions, noted on Facebook, "“On behalf of all of us at Tait Towers during this sad time, our thoughts are with Roy, Troy, Gina, and the entire Clair family. Gene was a gifted audio engineer, but more importantly, a man of integrity, with an enormous heart and a generous soul. We first met at a Yes gig in 1972. This encounter led to Clair Brothers becoming the exclusive sound company for Yes, and eventually, for Lititz to become the home of the fledgling Tait Towers. I shall be forever grateful for having known Gene.”
Dave Natale, the FOH engineer behind countless Clair tours with The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Tina Turner and others, offered a remembrance saying, “If it wouldn’t be for this man and his brother Roy, I would be driving a tow motor somewhere.”
Gene is survived by his brother Roy Clair; his partner of 23 years, Betty Shenenberger; the mother of his children, Joan (Klopp) Clair; children Troy (Katy) Clair and Gina (Stan) Zeamer; grandchildren Shaun (Nicole) Clair, Matt (Natalie) Clair, Gail Clair, Kyle Keener and Taylor Keener; and Great Grandchildren, Bella, Lilly and Otto. He was preceded in death by his parents, and son, Cory Clair.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be sent to any of the following: Moravian Manor Retirement Community, 300 West Lemon Street, Lititz, PA 17543; Hospice of Lancaster, 685 Good Drive, P.O. Box 4125, Lancaster, PA 17604-4125; or the Lititz Rec Center, 301 Maple Street, Lititz, PA 17543.