In the Beginning — The 1950s. How is it that I wrote the first gay country album in 1973? The answer is short… my dad said I could. My dad, a dairy farmer with ten kids, in redneck land in 1955, in his dung spattered brown overalls and clodhopper boots; that dad said I could. He helped me weave a blond bailing twine wig, put up with Tinker Bell outfits, and drove me in full drag to talent shows when I was 13. Over and over again in a hundred different ways, he told me not to sneak; he said it would ruin my immortal soul. Yes, that dad, who never laid a hand to me, pointed out the way so adroitly with the grace of a ballerina. I never knew he was the Saint of Dry Creek in a sea of racism, sexism and homophobia. All I knew was he was a dad who loved his kid.
“So of course I wrote the first gay country album. Don’t you think I owed him that?” -Patrick Haggerty
After Stonewall — The 1970s
Lavender Country was a community effort for sure. By us, from us, for us; the Stonewall Rebellion crowd. Seattle’s out of the closet LGBTQ folks were on the move, doing all manner of bold, creative projects in 1973. Lavender Country was one of them. The community raised the money for the studio, promoted and distributed the bootleg album through a post office box and came to our shows… and yes, I wrote and sang the songs, except for Eve’s song.
We knew gay country was absurd for mass distribution, and that was our saving grace. It allowed us to pour our hurt and angry hearts out without compromise to any agent, label, or music exec. They weren’t going to bite on gay country no matter what we said. The door was slammed shut for years for gay country, but we didn’t care. We were pissed off, so we made our statement.
Life Goes On — Forty Long Years
After a few years of touring and gigs at LGBTQ benefits, festivals and other events, the band disbanded; the album was forgotten for decades. I put my hurt in a box and walked into the rest of my life. So what, big deal. Lots of artists, and especially country music performers, are never recognized and remained unsung, especially those who had political messages to share. I told myself to quit belly aching.
I had a life, I raised two children with wonderful mothers. I joined a couple of socialist organizations, engaged in the Seattle radical political scene, ran for office, got sick and got well again. I married into a huge Black family from Philly, and started singing to elders and Alzheimer’s patients. I had a big, interesting, active, wonderful life without Lavender Country and I was fine with it.
Rediscovering Lavender Country — 1999
Lavender Country died without any fanfare… with two notable exceptions. The first was an article written by Chris Dickinson, then Editor of the Journal of Country Music, a publication with a national mainstream audience. She wrote a feature about the history of LGBTQ folks in country music, in which she proclaimed Lavender Country the first gay country album. Because of that publicity, the album was archived in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999. Suspiciously, she was fired months later without explanation. A few years later, Country Music Television’s documentary, Forty Greatest Firsts in Country Music (2005) included Lavender Country, but it was still too early; the dream of Lavender Country remained unrealized.
The Revival of Lavender Country – 2014
I didn’t know it at the time, but someone, still unknown, put one of Lavender Country’s anthems, Cryin’ These Cocksuckin’ Tears, on YouTube. Jeremy Cargill, a music aficionado, heard it, went to eBay and bought a used vinyl LP. When he realized what it was, he took it to a North Carolina independent label, Paradise of Bachelors. Still I knew nothing at this point. Then one day, Brendan Greaves called me and offered a reissue contract. It wasn’t long after our re-release that Lavender Country caught fire. Since 2014, there have been shows in LA, Missoula, Kansas City, St. Louis, Seattle, Ames, Bloomington, Nashville, and Raleigh to name a few. Great reviews led to write-ups, radio interviews, and prize-winning documentaries. Now there are even rumors of a feature length movie. Lavender Country is reborn and has roared back to life with a vengeance.