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.