Lititz boys help out ‘Jersey Boys’

By on June 25, 2014

Clair Bros. help jump start The Four Seasons

Roy and Gene Clair, back in the early days of their sound empire.

Roy and Gene Clair, back in the early days of their sound empire.

A trifecta of ‘60s pop music and culture has hit the area. Call it the perfect storm of entertainment, with trade winds blowing through this side of Lancaster County. Three genres &tstr; music concerts, cinema and theater &tstr; take influence from one band.

The history is a tale told many times over, said Roy Clair, co-founder of Clair Brothers Audio, now a worldwide leader in stage design and professional sound systems based in Lititz. The Clair brothers (Roy and Gene), who first started working a public address system for local events, were contacted by Franklin & Marshall to provide sound for their concert series. Their first brush with stardom came through Dionne Warwick, but it was the second act they provided sound for that propelled them to another level.

In the ‘60s, a young pop/rock group called The Four Seasons was still performing as an opening act. They found themselves in the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami opening for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Alpert had his own traveling sound system. The Four Seasons had to play through the house system, which sounded okay, but the Tijuana Brass sounded much better, said Clair.

“Consequently, Frankie Valli – who is the consummate professional – was thinking, ‘why don’t we have our own sound system,’” recalled Clair. “No one else thought about that at that time.”

So, when The Four Seasons came to Lancaster shortly afterwards, the only thing on Valli’s mind was the sound system. As Clair and his brother were setting up for the show, in walked Valli. Clair recalls the crooner strolling into the venue and heading straight to the speaker cabinets. This, said Clair, was quite odd.

“We went down to the dressing room and told them how best they could use our sound system and they were impressed that we cared,” said Clair. “I know (band member) Bob Gaudio was very amused, because no one needs to tell him anything. We did the show and they appeared to be very happy.”

The show was on Saturday night and Sunday morning the Clair brothers got a call from The Four Seasons who weren’t happy with the sound system at a venue in Allentown. The brothers jumped at the opportunity and headed north to bail out the band on the cusp of international stardom. From there they started touring with the band regularly and the brothers’ business was put on a fast track. Two young men from Lititz found themselves traveling the United States &tstr; much out of their element.

“The band was usually laughing at us because we were so wet behind the ears it was unbelievable. It was funny,” said Clair. “They’d ask us about our haircuts. They’d ask us about our clothes. To them the whole thing was funny. Coming from our area, we were very conservative and here we were wrapped up with four guys from New Jersey. We learned the ropes totally from The Four Seasons.”

Clair, now retired from Clair Global, manages Clair Brothers Audio Systems Inc., a place he said was created for the “older guys who are sick of going on the road.” However, the road is now coming to Clair.

“It’s 100 feet high, 100 feet long, and 100 feet wide,” exclaimed Clair of one of the new facilities at the Clair campus. That building will be used to design and test whole concert and event stages. Previously, Clair customers would need to rent a venue, like Citizens Bank Park, to design a stage. Now, that and much, much more can happen at the 96-acre, 10-building campus still under construction.

Clair celebrated their history June 19 with a special screening of “Jersey Boys” at Penn Cinema. The musical biography details The Four Seasons, from their New Jersey beginnings to their rise to stardom. “Jersey Boys” officially opened June 20 and stars John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli. For now, Young is a virtually unknown actor making appearances in short film and television spots (like “Glee”). That may change if his portrayal of the “the small kid with the big falsetto” croons to moviegoers.

Joining Young in the “Jersey Boys” version of The Four Seasons are Erich Burgen (“How Sweet It Is”) as Bob Gaudio; Vincent Piazza (“Boardwalk Empire”) as Tommy DeVito; and Michael Lomenda (“True Bond”) as Nick Massi. But, these aren’t the only act in town revisiting the sounds of The Four Seasons.

From June 12 through June 15, Don Brewer, Andrew Ragone, Scott Pearson, and Joe Paparella (a.k.a. The Unexpected Boys) graced the stage of Gretna Theatre with A Tribute to the Four Seasons.

“There’s a really cute love story in the music. It just became very popular,” said Brewer who made his first trip to Lancaster County after years on and off Broadway and to California and back. “We’re all Broadway performers, but this is my full time job now.”

Even though the Michigan native ends up performing hits from The Four Seasons at least once a week with The Unexpected Boys he still has songs like “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Workin’ My Way Back to You” on his iPod (along with the rock and roll he loves the most).

“The music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is great,” said Brewer.

Fifty years later, The Four Seasons are still bringing tons of entertainment to the area &tstr; even when they are not actually performing here.

Michael C. Upton works as a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure covering subjects ranging from funk punk to fine wine. He invites your comments and suggestions at 354-0609.

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