By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 26, 2009 at 8:26 AM

Is it the Beatlemania talking or does Milwaukee's veteran rock and roller Reed Kailing really sound a lot like Sir Paul?

Kailing, who has been a member of Badfinger -- whose biggest hit was written by McCartney -- and The Grass Roots, portrayed McCartney on Broadway in the hit show "Beatlemania."

Kailing got his start in Milwaukee's The Destinations in the early 1960s and has worked with an impressive slate of musicians, from John Lennon and Mick Jagger to gospel legend Mahalia Jackson to Don Johnson, Player and Kiki Dee.

Kailing has also done some commercial work for the likes of Northwest Airlines, Sears, AT&T and the American Dairy Association.

"The most important influences on me vocally are Rick Nelson, the Everly Brothers, and Paul McCartney," Kailing has said. Nelson and the Everlys had a profound effect on a certain boy from Liverpool, too.

It's easy to hear those influences when listening to "Raw, Rare, Well-Done," Kailing's new CD of demos, rarities and other pop-inflected rock and roll tracks. On tunes like "Rock and Roll Me Over," "Don't Let the Suit Fool Ya'" and "Sarah's Lullaby," the vocal similarities are stunning.

Although that similarity tempers a bit as the material gets more recent, it never really disappears and it becomes clear that more than just providing inspiration for his "Beatlemania" performance, McCartney has had a profound influence on Kailing.

"I was told by a friend that Alan Parsons had mentioned to him that he saw 'Beatlemania'," says Kailing. "Parsons had worked very closely with the Beatlesas a sound engineer at Abbey Road on several albums. After seeing bothcasts, he saidjokingly that I sounded more like McCartney than McCartney."

The title of Kailing's first solo CD refers to the material included on it.

The "raw" songs are demos recorded in the 1970s and ‘80s with Stephen Bishop, Chicago's Donnie Dacus and others. The "rare" ones are demos recorded in 1980 by Reed on guitar and piano at the California studio of multi-instrumentalist Emitt Rhodes, another McCartney-influenced singer and songwriter.

The "well-done" tracks are what Kailing calls "finished products" recorded in Nashville in early 2008. Some of them evolved, he says, from demos in the "rare" portion of the 15-song disc.

At the end is a "hidden" live version of "Rock and Roll Me Over" was recorded live in Indiana in 1982 on a Badfinger tour.

"I had an archive of unheard music that I composed earlier while working with other groups or co-composed with other artists," Kailing has said. "These songs were either never used or never recorded as finished products. Until recently, most only existed in demo form."

The material -- regardless of when or where or how it was recorded -- is uniformly melodic, accomplished and poppily satisfying, mining a vein that reflects Kailing's experience, from "Beatlemania" to The Grass Roots and Badfinger.

As such, it sets the stage -- telling the story so far -- for Kailing to follow up with a CD of entirely new material that will show us where he's at right now.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.