Lavender Country, the world’s first openly gay country group, arrives in Austin: Patrick Haggerty on their groundbreaking album almost 50 years later – Qmmunity

In 1973, Patrick haggerty recorded and released his band Lavender Countrythe self-titled debut album by, which is considered the first overtly gay themed album in country music history.

Patrick Haggerty from lavender country

For 41 years, however, Lavender Country languished in obscurity when the group disbanded in 1976 and Haggerty pursued a path of political activism, eventually meeting her husband, JB, and raising two children together in Bremerton, Washington, on the Kitsap Peninsula. There, Haggerty performed classic country songs in senior residences until 2014, when an unexpected phone call from a North Carolina record label shed light on Haggerty’s groundbreaking work.

Now 77, Haggerty will perform this Saturday, October 23 at Austin’s first-ever queer country music festival, Outlaw pride party, rustic tap. Before the show, the the Chronicle chatted with “The grandfather of gay country music” In regards to Lavender Countryits non-traditional roots, the rise of queer country and its ever-burning radical passion.

Austin Chronicle: In the early 1970s, when Lavender Country recorded their first album, it was a few years after the Stonewall riots. The queer community is bringing its political consciousness to the public arena on a scale never seen before. How did the rise of queer rights and visibility during this era influence the formation of Lavender Country?

Patrick Haggerty: Well, here’s how it all happened. I grew up west of Port Angeles, at the mouth of the Elwha River, and my parents operated a dairy farm there. Both of my parents knew who I was at a very young age, and I was really lucky because my parents loved me. They made room in their hearts and in their schedules to integrate their little sissy into the family in a loving, respectful and supportive manner. This was especially true for my father. I say this because mothers are known to love their gay sons, but it’s our fathers who give us a hard time, but not my dad. … In truth, it was my dad and my relationship with him that got me to be in a place where I could write the world’s first gay country album.

I grew up in country music, you know, Hank Williams and all that – Patsy Cline was my life and wonder heroine. I have very little musical training, but country, genre, three chords and the truth, so I started there. When I realized I was gay – in fact, before Stonewall – I had to make a choice: I could go to Nashville and hide and try for a career in country music, or I could be a Marxist bitch. screaming revolutionary.

If I chose to be the first person to write a gay country album and it was going to be full of screaming bitches Marxist stuff, then I wasn’t going to make a career in country music. It was very, very obvious in 1973. It was absurd to think otherwise. I couldn’t do both, period. We all knew that when we made the album.

I had to give up the idea of ​​being a country music singer, and I never regretted that decision because I entered a life of political activism and all kinds of causes. It’s a choice I made with my eyes open.

Patrick haggerty

“When I realized I was gay I had to make a choice: I could go to Nashville and hide and try to make a career in country music, or I could be a screaming revolutionary Marxist bitch.”

THAT : So what about you now that you’ve been recognized as a country singer?

PH: I was ready to die with Lavender Country never to be recognized – because that was my reality for a long time – and that was fine with me.

What happened next in 2014 was someone put [Lavender Country’s] “Cryin ‘These Cocksucking Tears” on YouTube, where a music lover named Jeremy Cargill from Chicago heard it. He went on eBay and found one of the originals from 1973 [vinyl records] and bought it. After playing it and figuring out what it was about, he turned to a label in North Carolina called Paradise of Bachelors, which specializes in creating music that might go unrecognized.

[At the time,] I was singing “Your Cheatin ‘Heart” to octogenarians and had no idea that something was going on. Then my phone rang and it was Brendan Greaves, [co-founder of Paradise of Bachelors], and he said: “We want to reissue Lavender Country. “

I thought it was a scam… but in case it wasn’t, I played along. Brendan understood my skepticism and sent me a $ 300 advance. I took [the check] to a credit union and said, “I don’t think this check is good,” but it was cleared.

It was a moving experience. I went to the car and watched the $ 300 in cash and 41 years of pent up emotions about Lavender Country and it’s “worthless” exploded. I sat there in my car and drove for half an hour because someone was thinking Lavender Country was worth $ 300 41 years later.

THAT : Lavender CountryThe release of was made possible through support from a nonprofit, Gay Community Social Services of Seattle, at the time. Why is it important to recognize it today?

PH: Rebel community of Seattle Stonewall raised funds and sold Lavender Country through the back doors and by mail. [The album] was so out of the ordinary and so unacceptable that we had to do it all ourselves to get the job done.

THAT : Over the past 5-10 years we’ve seen more openly gay country artists – there’s a level of visibility that wasn’t there before. There’s even a whole website dedicated to queer country and Americana musicians called Country Queer. How is it for you to see this now?

PH: It’s high time. Plus, going from being a person and being satisfied with being “The Grandpa of Gay Country Music” – which is exploding – it’s partly great, but there is the belly of being. become an icon and the music industry. I wrote Lavender Country instead of going to Nashville because I wanted to make a social change, not because I wanted to be a country music singer.

The real thrill of the Lavender Country phenomenon is that I can use it for the reason I did it in the first place. I am a radical, I am an activist, I am a revolutionary – I want to change society. This is what I am, this is what I have always been, and this is what I will be when I die. It’s the thrill – that I can stand on my little flat feet and be the canary.


Catch Lavender Country at the OUTlaw Pride Fest this Saturday, Oct. 23, 3 to 12 p.m., at the Rustic Tap, 613 W. Sixth. Tickets are a suggested donation of $ 15 to benefit Out Youth. Programming and information on outlawpridfest.com.

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