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1. Question: Who were the most important influences on you musically?

Answer: You’ve really asked me three distinct questions here. The most important influences on me vocally are Rick Nelson, the Everly Brothers, and Paul McCartney.

Instrumentally, during my very early years, it would have to be listening to my Uncle Bob Fulton playing “Moonlight Sonata” on piano that really bonded me with music. Then, there are Duane Eddy, Lonnie Mack, Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Muddy Water, Elmor James, and Eric Clapton. A photo from the 1950s "Ozzie and Harriet Show" with Ricky Nelson appears on this page, to the right of this Q & A.

From a composition standpoint, my influences most certainly include Beethoven and Brahms, Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” and Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. I love the music just before the rumble scene, where multiple songs-- “Tonight” and “We’re Gonna Rock It Tonight”--come together.

I like music that is audience-friendly. Really-great music captivates and soothes the audience rather than bullies the audience’s ear. It is not intrusive or invasive. 

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2. Question: How do you compose your own music if you can’t read music?

Answer: I taught myself music, first the piano, then the guitar off the piano. I learned by ear, so I know how the music is supposed to sound. I don’t read the musical notation, I simply look at the pictures. Music theory is based a lot on math, I’m not good at math. I remain open to new experiences and different people, and sometimes my feelings from such encounters provide material that evolves into a song.

I’ve written some songs in five minutes. Other songs come in pieces over the years. Sometimes, I think, “Oh, that was a good part,” and I marry it with other pieces. Eventually a complete song emerges out of the process.

When I come up with a melody, if it’s truly catchy and memorable, I’ll remember it. I don’t have to write down or record a good melody to recall it. And some songs are written in stages, maybe music first, then the lyrics–perhaps days, weeks, months, or even years later. And sometimes I borrow from an earlier song I’ve already composed to complete a new one. Other times, earlier songs get altered and improved, and evolve into entirely new ones.

To write good lyrics, the trick is always having a pencil handy. Whenever I get a great idea for lyrics, I have to write it down, wherever I happen to be at the moment. I’ve been known to jot down a few lines on the wall, on a receipt from a gas station, and even on a table cloth, whatever happens to be available. I don’t let good lyrics escape. I never know when an idea for a melody or lyric are going to come to me. Often, they arrive at the most unexpected times, like while I’m driving, mowing the lawn, eating dinner, or even in the shower. I don’t even have to be near the piano or guitar at the time. I’ve never set aside a specific block of time to compose with paper and pencil in hand.

Reed Kailing and Donny Dacus

Reed Kailing and Donny Dacus

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3. Question: How did you get together with John Shiely and the folks at Briggs & Stratton?

Answer: A mutual friend, Kevin Brandt, is a co-host of a radio show in Milwaukee on WKLH. Kevin is a third party on the “Dave and Carol Show.” I was painting the guest house on our property, listening to their show, which was airing live on location at a site nearby my house. I put down my paint brush and went over to the location. That day, the show was promoting a company called Fun Jets.

During the break, Kevin walked over to me. I introduced myself and mentioned that I enjoy the show’s humor. To my surprise, Kevin said, “I knew who you are, what you’ve been part of, and I’ve followed your career.” He mentioned that he would like to get together with me sometime.

I met with him later, and we formed a small acoustic group consisting of Kevin, a talented girl named Anjl Rodee, and myself. We performed at a series of events and had a lot of fun. One night, Anjl could not join us, so Kevin and I performed as a duo at the Ale House in Milwaukee. During one of the breaks, Kevin introduced me to his long-time friend John Shiely and his son, Michael.

John Shiely was not only the CEO and President of Briggs and Stratton, he was also a fellow guitar player. We talked for a while, at which time John mentioned that when he was young, he followed the Destinations at the CYO dances. John hung around for a while, and left as we were performing the song “Temptation Eyes” acoustically. As John and his son left, he gave us a “thumbs up” gesture.

Later, I talked to a mutual friend, Dave Kennedy. I mentioned to him that I had met a great guy, John Shiely, the night before. Dave replied, “I always wanted to get the two of you guys together. Let’s start now.” And Dave gave me John’s phone number. I called John on the direct line right to his office at Briggs and Stratton. He answered. I said, “It’s me, Reed Kailing.” For the next couple of hours, I enjoyed one of the most exhilarating and informative conversations about music and life in general that I’d had in a long time.

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4. Do you have a photo of yourself performing on stage with some of the guys from the Blues Busters?

Answer: Of course. Here is one of my favorites. The guys with me on stage are Chris Cerfus on keyboards and Matt Hazeltine on lead guitar, two of the best musicians I've ever worked with.

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5. Question: What’s it like to record in a Nashville studio?

Answer: Laying down tracks at a studio in Nashville is really no different than recording anywhere else. Nashville is just a unique environment with its own atmosphere and aura, so to speak. And Nashville has some great studio musicians. Other than that, there’s really no difference.

 


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6. Question: Of all the bands you’ve played with, which was the most fulfilling musically?

Answer: Without a doubt, the band I enjoyed performing with the most was Badfinger. It had all the energy of performing with a garage band. It was great. I loved the sound and the whole experience.

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7. Question: What was your purpose and how did you come to develop this website?

Answer: CD sales have been flat and falling. Today’s music fans refuse to spend $20 for a CD that contains one listenable song. Much of the music-listening audience, especially the age 50+ audience, is left cold. The concept for this website is to provide a live venue for bands for these audiences.

Working with Penny Kailing my wife, Paul Novotny a musician/songwriter and recording technician, Carlos Barragan IT Project Designer from Ten Consulting, and Rick Wozniak a marketing professional and university faculty member, I realized that I had an archive of unheard music that I composed earlier while working with other groups (such as the Grass Roots and Player) or co-composed with other artists (such as Don Johnson and KiKi Dee). These songs were either never used or never recorded as finished products. Until recently, most of them only existed in demo form.

Research data documented the fact that since August 2005, my demos have been on the top-ten countdown of Broadjam.com, which is based in Madison, Wisconsin. My demos, while still in rough form, had been thoroughly market tested and were receiving hits and downloads from all over the world, including Australia, Japan, the U.K., Russia and many places where I have never been. Audience data showed these hits and downloads crossed demographic categories. The tunes appealed to Generation X and Y, as well as Baby Boomers.

Hence, my goal is to create a hub where a broad spectrum of music lovers can congregate, a virtual clearing house for all kinds of music-related downloads. The concept is to provide a dynamic and interactive website that hosts music, biographies, interviews, photos, and more.

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8. Question: What brought you back into the recording studio after a hiatus?

Answer: As mentioned earlier, I had an archive of unheard music that I composed earlier while working with other groups or co-composed with other artists. These songs were either never used or never recorded as finished products. Until recently, most only existed in demo form. Audience research data documented the appeal of these songs around the world.

I decided to return to Nashville in order to record these songs as well as some newer original material in finished form. These songs will soon be available, both the demos and final mixes, to music listeners globally.

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9. Question: What’s your all-time favorite Grass Roots song?


Answer: I like them all, or at least most of them, maybe some better than others. But if I had to pick out one, it would be “Temptation Eyes.”

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10. Question: How did the group Player come about?

Answer: The prelude to Player is an interesting story. I formed the group Player out of contacts I had made while with the Grass Roots. Upon leaving the Grass Roots in 1975, I took a year off to detox from the rigors of touring. During that hiatus, I took some badly-needed personal time to relax and, in the process, build a huge radio-controlled airplane. At the point of realizing it was time to return to work, I received a phone call from Warren Entner, formerly an original member of the Grass Roots who left the group at about the same time I did. Warren had invested in a company called GTO, out of England, that had set up offices on Beverly Boulevard, in West Hollywood. Warren had joined ranks with David Joseph, who headed up GTO. I agreed to join in on a meeting with what was left of a band known as Skyband. I went to their offices at the ICM Building and met David Joseph and two of the members of Skyband, Peter Beckett and Steve Kipner. Warren had mentioned that Skyband had been signed to a multi-album deal with RCA records. I was to replace Lane Caudell in the three-man band. The group, as I remember, still had another album to complete in order to fulfill its obligations to RCA. I began to feel somewhat uncomfortable with David Joseph, as he continuously flipped his Dunhill cigarettes and matching Dunhill lighter on the table. He was talking down to me. “Yes, you were lead guitar player in the Grass Roots,” he said, “but here is an opportunity to really shine.” Becoming increasingly ill at ease, I asked Mr. Joseph, “What would be my financial participation with the group?” To my surprise, if I recall correctly, as I glanced at Steve and Peter, I was told that the group had accumulated a $380,000 deficit. After a moment or two of thought, I looked at David Joseph and asked, “Does this mean that I would be equally involved in debt?” To my astonishment, his answer was an arrogant, “Yes.”

At that point, I looked around the room, thanked Warren (who even today I still consider a good friend) for thinking of me as a possible colleague in this venture. Then I looked at David Joseph and said, “I don’t think this is for me.” I thanked him and stood up. We shook hands, and I made my way to the elevator. Waiting for the elevator, I heard the thumping of footsteps behind me. I turned around, and to my surprise, saw Steven and Peter approaching me. They then proceeded to say, “Mate, what do you know that we don’t know?” I replied, “You guys are really in debt, and I just don’t want to share your debt.” I added, “I live down the street from here; if you want to get together, we can sit down and talk.” They accepted my invitation and agreed to meet later that afternoon at my house on Lloyd Street in West Hollywood.

Peter and Steve showed up. They sat down with an inexpensive bottle of Almandine wine, and had a few. After discussing the situation further for a while, we got kind of tired and proceeded to pick up an acoustic guitar and started fooling around. It’s pleasing to note that we really did enjoy each other’s company. But reality set in. They came to realize that they were stuck in a solid contract. I had a friend who was an attorney. His name was Bruce Grakel. Bruce had clients such as Jimmy Webb, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr, just to name a few. My wife at the time, Patty, got to know Bruce and his wife Ronnie well and socialized often. On one occasion when we were together, I happened to tell Bruce about the situation that Peter and Steven faced with GTO. Being the good friend that Bruce was, he assured me that he would investigate the matter from a legal perspective.

After some legal maneuvers, we did find a legitimate and ethical way to move forward, and Steve Kipner, Peter Beckett, and I succeeded in creating a viable band, under its first name Riff Raff.

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11. Question: Are Reed Kailing and Creed Bratton the same person?

Answer: No, we are not the same person. Somebody started a rumor that the name “Creed” was an alias that I supposedly used to record under--C for the K of Kailing plus my first name.

In fact, Creed currently appears as a character on the popular TV show known as “The Office” on NBC. Creed and I have met and giggle over the fact that people confuse our identity. We are friends.

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12. Question: Did you and others record anonymously with John Lennon on his “Rock and Roll" album?

Answer: None of the artists who performed on John Lennon's famous "Rock and Roll" album were credited, and I don’t know if any of the specific tracks I played on are present on the actual album. I don’t think there is any way to know. Some of the other uncredited performers include Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Jack Bruce from Cream, Harry Nilsson, and Donnie Dacus of Chicago, just to name a few.

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13. Question: Is it true that you attended one of Paul McCartney’s birthday parties?

Answer: The ordinary answer would be it was like a dream come true. But the way I would answer is that it was matter of fate. Having been such a great fan and having everyone around me call me “Reedle the Beatle” or just plain “Reedle,” it was an extraordinary evening. We struck it off well enough that I had a private audience with him.

I recall hearing once during an interview with David Essex, the 1970s pop star, that when you were introduced to Linda through Paul, you were “in.” We got along famously, had a great evening, and everybody who was anybody was there. We met around 9:00 that evening. I walked out of that party at sunrise. A line of people were exiting and saying goodbye to Paul and Linda. When I approached Paul to shake his hand, he said, “Reed, pleasure meeting you.”

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14. Question: Were there two rotating casts for the Broadway production of Beatlemania?

Answer: Yes, there were two Beatlemania casts, but we didn’t alternate for performances per se. As you might suspect, out of professional jealousy, the folks in New York didn’t appreciate having the L.A. cast appear on stage.

In the New York cast, the Lennon character was Joe Pecorino, the McCartney character was Mitch Weissman, the Harrison character was Leslie Fradkin, and the Ringo character was Justin McNeill. The Los Angeles cast consisted of Joe Pecorino as Lennon, Mitch Weissman as McCartney, Leslie Fradkin as Harrison, and Justin McNeill as Ringo. We became known as Bunks 1 and 2 respectively.

As things happened, on the evening prior to hosting a major sponsor, Mitch and Joe literally blew out their voices from overextending their vocal capacities. When Steve Leber (of the management team Leber and Krebs) and Abe Jacob, the sound designer, scrambled to find a solution. I offered a suggestion and wound up singing for Mitch, who lip-synched his part on stage. I came to replace Mitch on an ongoing basis.

I sensed some resentment from both the New York and L.A. cast members over appearing on the Broadway; but there’s also another important point. When I went on to perform with the New York cast, I had to sing Mitch’s parts, which were the low Harrison parts. Joe would sing the Lennon parts, and Leslie would sing the high McCartney parts. On the other hand, when I performed with the L.A. or Bunk 2 cast, I sang the McCartney part, P.M. Howard sang the Harrison part, and Randy Clark sang the Lennon part. You know what? I had to know multiple roles, and I really got tired of it.

Once when asked to fill in for Mitch, I came to realize that I was saving the show from going dark. I simply got tired of it. I was doing the job of two people. I called a meeting with Joe Pecorino, Leslie Fradkin, and Justin McNeill and said, “Look, if you won’t allow the L.A. cast to go on, but you want me to sub for Mitch, I have no problem with that. But I’m going to sing the McCartney part. Leslie, you’re going to sing the Harrison part. Joe, do what you do.” The cast agreed, and we did some great work together. Of course, all of this created animosity with the other members of the L.A. cast.

Later, the New York cast opened up in Los Angeles at Century City. After a brief hiatus, I resumed my Beatlemania role at the Pantagas theater in L.A.