R.I.P. Richard LaValliere
Photo credit: George Taylor, via MilwaukeeRockPosters.com
Wow. It feels weird to write this, mainly because I never knew Richard personally. But I feel like I just have to say something about him. Before I continue on, let me give everyone a brief backstory of how I learned who Richard LaValliere was:
If you know some of Milwaukee’s music history, chances are you know who The Haskels were. Or at least you know the name or something. Anyway, my dad hung out with them somewhat regularly. He went to practices and hung out in the now infamous Haskel Hotel, a house on North Arlington Dr. He was actually pretty good friends with Presley Haskel, AKA Jerome Brisch, who was in the band with Richard at one point before his untimely death. This is where the story gets fuzzy, mainly because I never asked much about it, but at some point Richard split off to form his own band, the Oil Tasters. They released an album and a couple EPs, which I’m sure are still drifting around in Milwaukee and elsewhere.
Fast forward to roughly 2003, 2004?ish (probably around then), where I come into play. I was going through CDs, and found a burned one with the words “Oil Tasters” on it. It was a copy of their album that my cousin ripped to CD for us. I put it on, and I was confused to say the least. I heard something that was kind of punkish, but there’s this ridiculously loud saxophone over the top of it. It was like something out of a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Then you hear this grainy, whiny voice come in, singing “It’s the kind of day when a friend that you trust, could miss that red light, and hit that school bus” That was the true “What the fuck am I hearing?” moment. But it was awesome. I listened to it a lot. I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve been a fan of the Oil Tasters, and I’ve seen plenty of history to go with the whole Haskels/Oil Tasters era. I always wanted to meet Richard. He had to be some kind of weird but cool guy to hang around with. I mean, the guy had a blue bass with fried eggs painted/molded onto it. According to my dad, he took them off at one point, explaining that he “had to with all of that AIDS shit that’s going around”. That was the kind of guy that I had the pleasure to learn about. He/the Oil Tasters were so original that nobody knew what to do with them. It was quirky, to say the least.
Richard unfortunately passed away on February 8th. He was a local legend. R.I.P.
This is a great tribute. I met Richard when Polkafinger played at a Bar a friend of mine was working. I got to talking to a couple of his friends from back home..They told me Richard was sorta a legend in the Milwaukee underground scene..Of course Richard being the the humble guy that I met…I would have never guessed it..but this proves it..Thank you for posting this song..I will now search out some of this material for my collection..
The Oil Tasters album should be available somewhere on CD. I know the CD was pressed by an Australian label and distributed here. Rush Mor Records in Bay View had a copy from what I heard and there’s always eBay. The vinyls are incredibly rare, though.
Thank you for this tribute to my dear friend, role model, & collaborator.
Here’s my own tribute to Richard:
– Paul McComas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for your nice tribute Allen. Richard was my brother-in-law when he passed away. But way back in 1977, he was my boyfriend. I’m so happy for the 35 years that I could truly call him my friend.
Here’s a link for those that would like to purchase The Oiltasters cd.
Also, if you’re interested, I’ve created a memorial page for Richard on facebook.
I’m glad that you liked it. He was truly an influence to me.