Richard LaValliere: Milwaukee’s finest and 5 bands you should know about

Richard LaValliere with guitar
Richard LaValliere (photo by James Prinz)

More than four years gone, Richard LaValliere makes me angry.

As a kid, I had a brief but intense relationship with Milwaukee (where Richard electrified the underground music scene with bands like In A Hot Coma, the Haskels and Oil Tasters). Years later, we were accidental neighbors again in New York (where he continued his dizzying creative streak with groups like Scorpio Thunderbolt, Polkafinger, and Jones & Karloff). But when he died at 59 on February 8, 2012, I barely knew his name.

Judy Simonds — who actually lived the Milwaukee scene and is working to document it in depth — is helping me learn more about the amazing kaleidoscope of creative projects Richard LaValliere powered over nearly 50 years of his short life. (Check out the Richard LaValliere memorial page she runs on Facebook.) I haven’t asked her about his personal trajectory, or whether he was also frustrated that his work wasn’t heard by more people.

But for my own selfish reasons, I’m angry that I hadn’t heard Richard LaValliere until very recently — and that the audio and video record he left behind is so tantalizingly sparse. You should hear him, too. Here are five of his bands you should know about: Continue reading “Richard LaValliere: Milwaukee’s finest and 5 bands you should know about”

Like the Violent Femmes? 5 bands you should know about

Richard LaValliere of Oil Tasters
Richard LaValliere of Oil Tasters performs “My Girlfriend’s Ghost.”

Footnotes of fandom: I was the Violent Femmes’ first California follower. My family lived in Milwaukee for a couple years before we moved to San Diego in time for junior high. I kept friends there, though, and that’s how I ended up seeing the Femmes at Milwaukee’s Jazz Gallery in June 1981, just a few months after the band formed. On August 23, 1981the Pretenders spotted the Femmes busking in front of the Oriental Theatre and invited them to open that night; the rest is college-radio history.

If you’re interested in Violent Femmes prehistory and the Milwaukee scene at the turn of the ’80s, here are five bands you should know about: Continue reading “Like the Violent Femmes? 5 bands you should know about”