Lavender Country
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Lavender Country

Bremerton, WA | Established. Jan 01, 1973 | INDIE

Bremerton, WA | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1973
Band Country Folk




"Lavender Country - Best New Reissue / Pitchfork"

Some artifacts can only be referred to by themselves: A kidney bean is a kidney-shaped bean, and Lavender Country is the best country record by an openly gay person released in 1973. It is an object singular enough in music history that the Country Music Hall of Fame officially recognized it in 1999. Patrick Haggerty, the man who wrote and recorded it, was raised on a dairy farm outside Seattle by a loving and accepting family before the twin shocks of the Stonewall riots and his ejection from the Peace Corps radicalized him. He responded with Lavender Country, pressing about 1,000 copies with the help of a local gay community organization and selling them by word-of-mouth and in the back pages of gay magazines. Once those were gone, that was more or less it—Haggerty remained a staunch advocate of gay rights, and performed Lavender Country songs at pride events and community centers. But his record receded into history, to a rumor perfuming the edges of record collector conversation.

Now that the resourceful and adventurous North Carolina label Paradise of Bachelors is reissuing Lavender Country, the enduring richness of Haggerty's achievement can be appreciated again. Haggerty didn't just write a "gay country album" for the political theatre. There are winking lyrics about tumbling in the hay and a rewrite of "Back in the Saddle Again" as "Back in the Closet Again", but the country signifiers aren't just cheap hay-bale-and-tractor-bed props for a message. From the inexpertly sawed fiddle of Eve Morris to Michael Carr's saloon piano to Haggerty's reedy, searching tenor, it is a country album through and through. The sound is wobbly and amateurish, but in a playful, "come on y'all" sort of way, and you can easily imagine a roomful of enthusiastic participants in folding chairs at a community-center basement, singing along at Haggerty's encouragement.

Like any good culture-clash project, Lavender Country stops to have fun with sly subtext. "There's milk and honey flowin' when you're blowin' Gabriel's horn", Haggerty leers on "Come Out Singing". On the title track, he envisions a utopia where you wear your "frilly blouse" to "The People's Outhouse" and "the folks will hang around and pee for days." "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears" claimed the FCC license of a DJ brave or foolhardy enough to play it on the air. On it, Haggerty's backup vocalist Morris sings the words "cock-sucking tears" with a clarion earnestness, like Joan Baez working blue. It is a fresh joy to hear every time it comes along.

But Lavender Country is not a really a "funny" album. The songs address life inside the gay-rights struggle, and the specifics hurt. On "Waltzing Will Trilogy", Haggerty rails against the "pack of straight white honky quacks" administering shock treatment to homosexuals—"they call it mental hygiene but I call it psychic rape," he barks. Young men are beaten to death by police and sodomized by prison guards. "Back in the Closet" and "Straight White Patterns" detail the quiet torture of living within a straight white regime. And "I Can't Shake The Stranger Out of You" is a lovelorn take on gay cruising, a pickup song that doubles as a lament. "I reckon you're lookin for some neckin, yes I do," Haggerty sings, inviting the song's subject to "climb right up on into my manger, but let me warn you about one small danger, babe/ I can't shake the stranger out of you." The song's tone is masterful—sexy, sad, and tender all at once.

This is why, despite the references to the struggles of the era, Lavender Country never feels like a footnote, historical or otherwise. Haggerty's songs are resonant and wonderful, folding pain into jokes and vice versa and exuding heartbreak and anger and wry good humor. You could never switch the gender pronouns on a song like "Georgie Pie", where Haggerty beseeches a would-be lover who remains closeted, and yet the song speaks to anyone who has ever felt the sting of a rebuke. Haggerty's playfully frank "Your body odor lingers in my toes and in my nose and in my head" on "Come Out Singing" will make you grin with recognition if you've ever picked up and smelled someone's t-shirt.

Haggerty kept moving after Lavender Country, running for local office twice and working in anti-police brutality and anti-apartheid movements. He is 70 years old now, and often plays to senior centers (he mostly sticks to Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn). Lavender Country is a piece of his past, one moment in a busy life spent in social justice. But, any way it is viewed, it's a tremendous feat, a remarkable act of bravery and honesty as well as a statement on the universality of love and lust and belonging. Pop songs are limited vessels for social justice, but the good ones do a remarkable job of teaching empathy, a few minutes at a time, and Haggerty's songs build a better world to live in, for forty minutes or so. There aren't many achievements more exalted than that. - Pitchfork

"Discovering Lavender Country: A Conversation With Country Music’s Hidden Gay Icon"

For all its strides, our culture remains woefully inadequate when it comes to producing gay country songs. Thankfully, the excellent North Carolina–based indie label Paradise of Bachelors has stepped up to rectify this situation by reissuing the trailblazing (and until now scarcely available) self-titled 1973 debut by Lavender Country, a Seattle collective headed up by singer-songwriter and gay rights activist Patrick Haggerty.

Often recognized as the first out gay country album, Lavender Country would likely still alienate some listeners if it were released in 2014. For all the out contemporary artists, few dare to be as explicit about the frustrations and pleasures of being a gay man as Haggerty on songs like “Come Out Singin’” and the self-explanatory “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears.” A native of rural Washington raised by uncommonly tolerant parents, Haggerty was taught never to hide his self-described “sissy” demeanor, and he subsequently dressed in drag while tooling around as a high school student in his close-knit small-town community. As an adult, Haggerty was radicalized by his eviction from the Peace Corps in accordance with the organization’s “no homosexuals” policy, as well as the Stonewall riots in response to a police raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar in 1969. Shortly after Stonewall, Haggerty came out while living in Missoula, Montana.

Haggerty’s rage is evoked most vividly on “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears,” which opens with a call to arms: “I’m fighting for when there won’t be no straight men,” Haggerty sings in a twangy, affected croon. Elsewhere, Haggerty’s lyrics explore the horrors of being forced to live in the closet by an ignorant and domineering majority. “We just lay low and hide our pain / and do like we was trained,” he sings on the stunning “Straight White Patterns.” “Our desperation’s easy to explain / we’re trapped in straight white patterns / and they’re coming down again.”

Haggerty also doesn’t shy away from depicting male-on-male lust, like in “Come Out Singin’” when he sings “your tickling beard has got me geared / for a nice long day with you.” There’s also this incredible lyric from “Georgie Pie”: “What would you do if I blew / a kiss into your hair / would your pulses pound if found / the stains in your underwear.”

These lines may be misinterpreted as camp, but it’s important to note the context. As Haggerty says in Lavender Country’s voluminous and insightful liner notes, there was virtually no media created by gays for gays at the time. While the album’s initial reach was minuscule — only 1,000 copies were pressed, and Haggerty and his bandmates distributed the records themselves — Haggerty’s intent was to educate and even comfort those in his community yearning for an honest representation of their lives and experiences.

If Lavender Country were only a historical curio, it would be a fascinating listen. But it’s also an often pretty and delightfully strange proto-indie Americana record that predates backwood eccentrics like Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Bill Callahan. While Haggerty, 70, no longer performs as Lavender Country, he will be in Los Angeles on Sunday to celebrate the record’s March 25 release with a rare concert at The Church On York Blvd.

Last week I phoned Haggerty to talk about Lavender Country. I reached him at his home in Bremerton, a Navy town near Seattle where he lives with his husband.


Did you ever think that Lavender Country would reach a larger audience?

I never dreamt it would go this far. When Paradise of Bachelors found Lavender Country, I didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t even know they were looking. I was not actively working on Lavender Country and it all came as quite a surprise.

Had you been performing any of these songs recently?

I had been performing quite a lot, but not these songs. In 1999 when Chris Dickinson of the Country Music Hall of Fame wrote an article about the history of gay people in country music, she discovered that Lavender Country was the first gay country music, and there was a little bit of acknowledgment and recognition then. And there was a guy named Doug Stevens who was trying to get somewhere with it, gay country, at that time. I worked up with him, and we were doing some shows, mostly in the gay community, for two or three years. But Lavender Country went back to sleep. I was doing old songs to old people quite a bit. I am still doing that work quite a bit, and I enjoy it a lot.

Like, playing old country songs, or what?

Yeah, old songs that they want to hear. A lot of country, but not necessarily all country. You know Doris Day and “Que Sera Sera”? Yeah, they love that and other stuff like that.

I feel like if this record came out today, it would still be unique and maybe even provocative for some people. Because while there are plenty of openly gay singer-songwriters in 2014, it’s rare to hear songs that address being a gay man as frankly as you do on Lavender Country.

What I learned, and what we all learned along the way was, as things developed over the last 40 years, you can come out and get away with it. But you cannot get up and sing about it. It’s still taboo. And it’s very interesting that the line has been so seriously drawn there. Of course, I didn’t understand when I made Lavender Country that you were going to be able to do all these other things that were gay. Because there were all kinds of things that you couldn’t do and be gay when we made the record.

Why do you think singing songs about being gay is still taboo?

In a lot of ways, the taboo came from gay people. It’s been difficult to get gay people to listen to gay-oriented music. They’re not used to it. They like what’s popular. You’d think somebody would’ve said something about something gay way back when we were doing disco, right? Disco was, like, the rage in the gay community, and all of us were running around, acting like Donna Summer, but we were singing her lyrics. We weren’t singing gay stuff. The taboo about singing about it — it ran very deep in the gay community as well. Those of us who were doing gay music, we were very aware of that.

When you were writing these songs — like “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” for instance — did you have an audience in mind?

The people that we were writing to were the people who were out, who were seeking valid information. All of us were looking for any kind of valid information, and Lavender Country was for us. I knew it wasn’t going to go to Nashville. I mean, come on. I wasn’t that naive. I was in my mid-twenties when I wrote Lavender Country. And I knew that it would define me forever, musically. I knew that I would never get to Nashville if I put out Lavender Country, and I was right.

We did the music for us — those of us who made Lavender Country, and the thousand people who bought Lavender Country in 1973 through whatever underground channels we could distribute through. I had a whole community of people around me, helping me make and distribute Lavender Country. And we loved it. As the movement broadened out and got more popular and corporate America and the Democratic Party got hip to the gay movement, it became more and more popularized. Then popular music invaded the gay community.

You alluded to Donna Summer before, and as you just said, by the end of the ’70s with the disco movement, a segment of gay culture had been mainstreamed. Were you a fan of disco?

There was an obvious connection between disco music and the gay movement. The general culture began to understand that. So it was great for that reason. Also, not so much anymore, but in my youth, I loved to dance. Disco was fun. It was a lot of fun. So for that reason I really appreciated it.

Interestingly, the people who are interested in Lavender Country now, it’s just a completely different scene. All kinds of people who aren’t gay are interested in Lavender Country. Are you not gay?

I’m not.

And you’re interested in Lavender Country. Well, hey, there’s a whole gay huge club up here. Welcome to the club. It’s not a club you could be approved of signing onto 40 years ago. So that’s what’s changed.

In the liner notes you talk about how difficult it was in the early ’70s for gay people to learn about other gay people. You used the word “information.” There wasn’t any information out there. There’s a quote that I wrote down, when you say, “We were coming up with information out of whole cloth by ourselves.”

Yeah, yeah, it was like that. In the early days of the gay liberation movement, we were so desperate for valid information, and the information that we got was so crappy. We were educating ourselves.

I imagine, also, it was a matter of saying, “We’re not going to hide in these songs, we’re going to be explicit about what these songs are about because otherwise we’re invisible.”

You had to be explicit to be valid. And the information had to be on topic, it had to be on point. That’s what we were trying to do in pretty much every song. Each one is very topical. OK, now we’re going to write a song about lost love, and now we’re going write a song about the nature of institutionalized political oppression against us. And now we’re going to write a song about what it’s like to be in the closet. Now we’re going to write a song about our problems with straight men, not because they’re especially attracted to women, but because they treat us terrible. Now we’re going to write a song about having to kick our way into the movement in the first place, be validated by the anti-war movement and other progressive movements, and kicking our way into socialist parties, which were supposed to be very liberated. Let’s write a song about how hard it is to be gay when you’re trying to be straight, living the straight white patterns.

You tell this remarkable story in the liner notes about your dad, how when you were in high school he told you “don’t sneak.” The idea was that he didn’t want you to hide or be ashamed of who you are. It sounds like that was a galvanizing moment in your life, moving forward.

It’s still emotionally difficult to talk about my father, because it wasn’t just this one incident. I mean, I put the man through his paces about my sissiness and my femininity over and over and over and over. I mean, I really ran the man ragged. And he never batted an eyelash. He never said an unkind thing. He never put me down. He never — he didn’t hit any of us for any reason. He didn’t do that. My entire childhood, he was so exceptionally remarkable in the way he handled me. I didn’t see him as remarkable. I just thought he was a dad who loved his kid. It wasn’t until I was out and heard all the stories of other gay men and what happened with them and their fathers. I was flabbergasted and aghast over and over and over and over.

I didn’t know that my father was the patron saint of all happy sissies everywhere. I didn’t know about it until I grew up. I don’t know where he went in his heart to point me to living a life without sneaking, but he did. It was just an absolutely remarkable piece of fatherly advice. And we were talking about a hay field in 1959.

How were you received among other people in the town? You’ve talked about walking around in drag and running for head cheerleader, and you’re living in this small town in the ’50s.

It still comes down to my dad. Because he gave me permission to be a sissy when I was 8 years old. I’ll spare you all the incidents and details, but I got the message from my father early that it was OK. I did it — very naturally and very openly and very brazen — because my dad told me to. My dad had my back. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s just like — it was a remarkable advantage. The way that I worked was, well, if my dad is going to buy this, then you’re going to buy it, too. And my friends did. Because I did run for head cheerleader, and I won.

Were you writing songs as a child?

A few, yeah. I’ve always been a little bit introverted. So songs and poetry pretty much, all along, yeah.

Do you remember how old you were when you started doing that?

About 10 or 11.

Were you always writing country songs?

I’m pretty grounded in country. My heart was really there. Frankly, it was the female country that really grabbed me. Patsy. Patsy Cline. I’m still singing Patsy.

Did you listen to any of the later singers, like Loretta Lynn or Tammy Wynette?

Yeah, I liked Loretta, and I liked Tammy, and I’ve done a little bit of both of their stuff. But in my adulthood, I didn’t follow country so much. The way I thought about it as an adult was, This is a club that is always going to exclude me, so why should I pander to it?

Lavender Country reminds me a little of the country rock that was going on at that time in Los Angeles — that whole Gram Parsons/Gene Clark/Eagles scene. Were you influenced by that stuff?

I think only peripherally. When I wrote Lavender Country, I really went back to 1955 in my head. To be so outlandish as to write these lyrics that are so bold, you’d better stick with a genre where you’re at home and you’re comfortable.

Having been involved in the gay rights movement from the beginning, what is your perspective on it today? Do you still feel any of that anger you felt at the beginning?

The focus of my political anger has shifted over these years. The gay movement has made great strides. We came a really long way in 40 years, further than any of us thought we would come. Yeah, some things about the way some people act about gay issues are so irksome. But I have a lot more anger about the way the culture continues to treat women and people who aren’t white — like this voter registration stuff, that makes me mad. Really mad. Like, come on, you guys. You’re doing this so people who aren’t white can’t vote? Is that really what you’re about in 2014? That’s really what you’re going to do? Again? Still? I mean, those issues are much more shaming and provocative and pervasive and important to the culture now. The gay movement has triumphed in ways that the black movement is still struggling to achieve. - Grantland

"Interview: Patrick Haggerty on Lavender Country"

Lavender Country, a cult album from 1973 that's hailed as the "first gay country music album" of all time, has been re-released this week by a small North Carolina label called Paradise of Bachelors. The record is a document of the humor, politics and love life of the band's primary singer-songwriter, Patrick Haggerty, an activist and artist who grew up on a dairy farm in rural Washington, had a shift in consciousness through the hippie movement and after the Stonewall Riots in New York and felt compelled to come out of the closet in a big way, writing songs like “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” as intentional conversation starters, at a time when just saying the words "I'm Gay" out loud was a radical enough act that it was practically dangerous. More than 40 years after the album's original release, read our interview with Haggerty below.

What kind of music were you surrounded by from an early age? Mostly by whatever was on the radio, which was mostly country music. We did get some Canadian radio because we lived up by the border. Canada gave me a little broader base which I appreciated.
But it was a lot of country music.

Have politics and music always been connected for you? No, they’ve just intersected at various points. I would say that the album was politically motivated though—it was about getting out the gay liberation message. Some of the songs are quite intimate and the lyrics often go beyond political, but Lavender Country is patently political.

Being a country album, your record doesn’t fit into a framework of some of the stereotypical tastes that the public imagines gay people to be interested in, like disco and dance music. Back in 1973, there wasn’t any genre of music that I could’ve picked that would have been friendly to gay people. No genre was ready to handle what Lavender Country was saying lyrically, so that didn’t even matter. I stuck with country because I knew it, because it’s what I grew up on and cut my teeth on. There wasn’t any genre that was acceptable, so why not country? At the time, it was like if you’re going to do something outlandish, why not get ironic about it and go to country to do it.

Did it seem brave at the time? Everybody asks that. Looking back on it, I can understand why people use that adjective. Perhaps that’s appropriate, but it’s not the way I felt at the time. But brave people hardly ever report feeling brave when they do whatever it was that they’re called brave for. I think a more appropriate adjective for where my head was at the time would be “rabid.” Like, Ahhhhhhhhhh, this has to be done, we’re going to do this. We don’t have any option. We’re just screaming. I’m mad angry, rabid, bursting out. There wasn’t any alternative except the closet, which was much more hideous. It was much easier to be brave and come out than to stay in the closet. That wasn’t an option so what else could you do?
Why did you feel like you had to make such a strong statement with the record at the time? My father always talked to me about being forthright and not sneaking, and that really hit home to me. It’s a much better way to live your life. Between 1967 and 1968 when I started developing a gay consciousness, those couple of years were hideous. I hated them. I hated going to gay bars. I hated being in the closet. The gay bar I went to in Spokane, WA was a cheap little cheesy whole in the wall without any neon lights and a plain grey door, so that they could be completely secret. You had to sneak in there and nobody was supposed to know that it was a gay bar. The atmosphere inside the gay bar was just deadly. I thought, I can’t live this way. It was just too creepy for me. And I was in Missoula, Montana when the Stonewall Riots happened. As soon as I heard about the Stonewall Riots, I came out. Like, the next day. I was the only one in Missoula who I knew of that came out. But it was easier and better to just come out and take whatever knocks you were going to take than to just stay in the closet. Since I had done that, why not do Lavender Country? I had already paid the price. I was already a loudmouth about it. Why not put it to music?

One thing I really like about the record is that it has a sense of humor. The messages in Lavender Country at the time were heavy. We’re writing about some thick shit. A way to present that information is to lighten the load with humor. I was aware of that and I used that as a strategy to make what I was saying more palatable. Lavender Country without the humor would be too heavy.

Who was buying the record and coming to see you play? People buying Lavender Country were primarily people who were coming out and who were interested in the gay movement and entering into the gay movement. We were writing to encourage gay people to come out—it could be anything. A street march a gay pride, a symposium, a lecture. Pretty much anything.

The world has changed since and become a more accepting place—has the audience for your music done so as well? What’s happened with Lavender Country since is really truly remarkable. We did the first Lavender Country show regarding the release of the album in Los Angeles last weekend and it was profound for everybody there, probably more so for me than for anyone. Who was there was not the gay audience that I usually played to or had been playing to. Who was there was young, primarily heterosexual, hip music followers and aficionados. Most people were really intimidated by Lavender Country for the whole 40 years. They couldn’t handle the idea of gay music and they couldn’t handle the idea of gay country music and only a few people could get past it. Enlightened gay people could listen to Lavender Country but nobody else. What I saw in Los Angeles was a complete reversal of that because the primarily straight, younger audience that showed up were all ears. They were not intimidated by the fact that it was gay music and they didn’t care that it was country music. They bought it. They showed up ready to listen to what I had to say. They had gotten through those barriers and stereotypes

The culture has changed to the point where anybody with any kind of hip idea, anybody who has two cents worth of sense about human sexuality, regardless of what their sexual orientation is, is ready to listen to and hear Lavender Country. The record is the same as it was 40 years ago, but the culture has caught up to it. I never thought I’d live to see it. Looking at this opportunity, at age 70, I did. I lived long enough to see a world ready to hear what we had to say. It’s beautiful for all of us. It’s a statement for how far the gay movement has come. It’s a victory not just for me or for Lavender Country, but for everybody. - The Fader

"Groundbreaking Lavender Country album gets new life"

It’s not exactly the stuff of classic country music, then or now.
Back in the closet again So whoopee ti yi yeah

It’s sure a bummer being gay
When I’m back in the closet again
When Patrick Haggerty wrote those words in the early 1970s, singing them with a thick twang set against sawing fiddles, he had no idea he was blazing a trail. Under the name Lavender Country, Haggerty fronted a Seattle band whose self-titled debut in 1973 is widely considered the first openly gay album in country music.
“Lavender Country” was ahead of its time, a potent collection of protest songs about the experience of being gay at a time when no such perspective existed in popular music, at least not in such frank and bold terms. It was a historical document whose legacy didn’t extend much beyond its initial sold-out run of 1,000 copies pressed on vinyl.
That record is now getting a new life courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors, an independent label out of North Carolina, which rereleased “Lavender Country” last week. It puts the album, and its charismatic maker, back in the spotlight and acknowledges Haggerty, who’s now 70, for what he truly is: a pioneer.
“This whole thing has been astonishing, particularly because I wasn’t engaged with Lavender Country in these last few years,” Haggerty says from his home near Seattle. “I wasn’t doing anything with Lavender Country when Brendan Greaves from Paradise of Bachelors got a hold of it and offered me a record contract. I’ve lived long enough to see the culture develop to the point where they want to hear Lavender Country. And that’s very heartening.”
“I never thought that would happen,” he adds. “I wasn’t writing these songs to a popular audience. I was writing them for gay people who were trying to come out. That’s where my mind was.”
“Lavender Country” adheres to its genre almost as an afterthought; the instrumentation is acoustic and at times heavy on fiddle, dobro, and the down-home charm of Haggerty’s nasally croon. Its mission, though, is closer in spirit to the strident work of Phil Ochs. Without any recognition from the establishment, it was a different strain of outlaw country right in line with that movement as it was crystallizing with Willie, Waylon, Merle, and Kristofferson. And it’s not a stretch to say “Lavender Country” was akin to how female country artists, such as Loretta Lynn (namely “The Pill,” her controversial ode to birth control), were asserting their rights around that time.
“It was like this: I was plenty conscious of the genre, but in 1973, genre didn’t matter because no genre was ready for Lavender Country,” says Haggerty, who was raised on a dairy farm in rural Washington with country music all around him. “If I would have put it in any genre with those lyrics, I would have gotten the same reception.”
Although Haggerty was the group’s figurehead as its main songwriter and singer and guitarist, he insists “Lavender Country” was a collective effort, from his bandmates to Seattle’s gay community that rallied behind the band and financed its album, which was nearly destined for obscurity.
“With Lavender Country, for the people who heard it at the time, it was another touchstone of going forward, of being out and proud,” says Chrissie Dickinson, who wrote a 1999 article for the Journal of Country Music about gay musicians in country, specifically Haggerty and Lavender Country. “It was one of those first salvos of out gay and lesbian identity on record, and what an amazing thing and a real act of bravery. There’s no going back once you put that out.”
Dickinson’s article rekindled interest in the album, prompting Haggerty and his supporters to release it on CD not long after. The new reissue, however, is the definite document of the album, complete with photos, lyrics, and an extensive oral history of the band relayed in Haggerty’s own words.
“I was immediately struck by the notion of a gay country album and what that even means,” says Greaves, who co-owns Paradise of Bachelors along with Christopher Smith (and who grew up in the Boston area). “I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the existence of this singular artifact so ahead of its time. It’s pretty fierce stuff.”
Forty years on, the album holds up as a fascinating and somewhat psychedelic piece of music, full of spirit and spunk and often couched in humor that thinly veils the grit and anger underpinning the songs. Haggerty wrote the album’s centerpiece, a song whose title (“Cryin’ These [Expletive] Tears”) can’t be printed here but is well worth hearing, as a queer update on a familiar trope in country music. On the title track, he implores the listener to “come out, come out, my dears, to lavender country,” with the promise that “you’ll just spread your spangled wings and fly.”
“People say to me that I was brave, but I didn’t feel particularly brave at the time. All of us who were coming out in 1970, wherever we were, all of us were brave. It wasn’t just me,” Haggerty says. “I just had a platform. I had a community of folks around me who were also brave and discovered that I could sling together words cleverly and with heart.”
Haggerty recently assembled a new lineup of Lavender Country, and the band played — for the first time since dissolving in the late ’70s — a show in Los Angeles last month. He was shocked by just how much had changed in the intervening years and interpreted the band’s enthusiastic reception as a sign of progress.
“We weren’t playing to a gay audience, which was huge and the first time for us,” he says. “There were gay folks in the crowd, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t a gay-community event like it used to be; it was a music event. The audience was mostly younger, heterosexual, white young adults who were music aficionados.”
Now that Lavender Country is finally getting its due in a wider context, you have to wonder if Haggerty has new music on his mind.
“Well,” he says, taking a shallow breath, “one always has fantasies.” - Boston Globe

"Review: Lavender Country"

If you’ve never been to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, make it a point to go. The effortless immersion of walking among honky tonks on Broadway should necessarily be complemented by a trip to the Hall for anyone interested in the form. Like the city’s music industry from which it was birthed, the Hall is a monolithic ode – even if you’re the kind of person who listens to “anything but country,” the Hall is an essential education in how we started with Appalachian folk songs and wound up with Dierks Bentley covering Avicii.

In its exhaustive survey, the Hall leaves no stone unturned. Proof can be found quietly archived among the Hank Williams guitars and Taylor Swift dresses in the form of Lavender Country, a lesser-known document by way of Seattle that takes its place in history as country music’s first openly gay album. Perhaps it was the inclusion of “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” on last year’s Strong Love compilation that piqued the interest of Paradise of Bachelors and got them to reissue it; whatever the motive, Lavender Country is a fascinating listen both in context and on its own.
Lavender Country was the vehicle of Patrick Haggerty, a Washington-born musician from a family of milk farmers. As Chris Dickinson’s seminal 2000 piece “Country Undetectable: Gay Artists in Country Music” details, Haggerty dealt with discrimination in cooking contests as a kid and in the Peace Corps before his discharge for being gay in 1966. Following a move to Seattle, Haggerty got involved with the Gay Liberation Front there and started playing politically charged folk songs. The Shelter Half coffeehouse in Tacoma was a particularly critical venue for his music and it’s where he was able to form the band that became Lavender Country.

Released by Gay Community of Social Services Seattle in 1973, Lavender Country the album sounds like something Webb Pierce might have put out – Haggerty’s sharp twang isn’t dissimilar to Pierce in offering an alternative to your usual baritones from Hank Williams, Floyd Tillman, Waylon Jennings, and so forth. The glossy piano bar jaunt of opener “Come Out Singing” excepted, most of these ten songs sound like classic honky tonk. Put another way, it’s telling that “Back in the Closet Again” is a twist on Gene Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again.” The influences are clear.

Lavender Country’s most effective weapon, however, is that which had no historical precedent: its lyrical content. This is brazenly out in a way few albums from the period across any genre could be. Part of this is an inherent advantage of the medium – country’s appeal often lies in its simplicity and pathos, its specific small tales.

But that advantage is rarely more striking than on “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears.” The expected sad-sack tales in which country so often trades are set on their head in this new context, especially in the tragicomic “Waltzing Will Trilogy,” the story of a man committed to an institution and, later, convicted of child molestation and used by prison guards. “They call it mental hygiene / but I call it psychic rape,” sings Haggerty.

As you can probably guess, Haggerty’s grad school education plays a role in elevating these songs above the usual farm boy’s vocabulary. His lyrics are alternately funny and saddening, and he can take credit for almost all of it. Three interesting exceptions: “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You” and “Lavender Country” were arranged with the assistance of Lavender Country’s only straight member, guitarist Robert Hammerstrom. The most noticeable diversion from the group’s sound comes courtesy of the group’s fiddler, Eve Morris, on “To a Woman.” Its vaguely psych-ish tint is gently out of place late in the record but charming all the same.

Lavender Country pressed a thousand of these LPs and performed at various LGBT events until their dissolution in 1976. Following Dickinson’s article, the group reformed in 2000 and released an EP with a couple of new songs. This reissue, featuring a 32-page chapbook, comes 41 years on from its original release. As recent legislation in Oklahoma, Virginia and Michigan have shown, the gay rights struggle is still uphill. But along with Alix Dobkin’s Lavender Jane Loves Women, Lavender Country is a small but significant reminder that love is universal, that it comes in many forms in many places, and that it doesn’t have to sound like Steve Grand. - Dusted Magazine

"40 Years Later, Patrick Haggerty’s Gay Country Album Gets a Proper Release"

In 1973, a feminist disc jockey at KRAB-FM 107.7 (now known as The End) had her broadcasting license revoked by the FCC. Her offense? Playing a track called “Cryin’  These Cocksucking Tears” by a Seattle band called Lavender Country. The band was the brainchild of songwriter Patrick Haggerty, and the album—also known as Lavender Country—was to become widely recognized as the first gay-themed country LP ever released.

The DJ, Shan Ottey, hoped that playing it would help advance the cause of gay rights. Instead, it left Ottey without a broadcasting license and Lavender Country without an audience. The record was lost to the dustbin of history for the greater part of the next 40 years.

The album run was limited to 1,000 copies and released by Gay Community Social Services of Seattle—not a record label, mind you, but a community-outreach organization. Yet despite its limited release and lack of initial impact, the album did find a small number of devotees through the years, mostly music historians who recognized its significance as an anachronistic artifact and an early, important gay-themed musical work (it was eventually archived in the Country Music Hall of Fame).

In the early ’70s, few musicians had the courage to discuss homosexuality so defiantly—and with so much wit—and even fewer in country music, which Haggerty had liked from an early age. The son of a Port Angeles farmer, Haggerty loved Patsy Cline and Hank Williams; when he merged his love of music with his passion for gay rights, Lavender Country seemed an obvious byproduct. The result is a brave and powerful manifesto, a country album with a punk-rock message: “I’m gay, so fuck you.”

It wasn’t until the Internet made once-obsolete objects available to anyone with a broadband connection that Lavender Country’s message could finally be heard by a much wider audience. After discovering a song on YouTube and tracking down a vintage copy on eBay, the folks at Carrboro, N.C., label Paradise of Bachelors, which specializes in re-releasing under-recognized American music, decided the album was worth a reissue. The “new” record officially drops this week.

Haggerty, however, has long since disbanded his group and given up on a career as a gay country singer. As he writes in the album’s liner notes, “Lavender Country wasn’t gonna feed us.” He raised two children with two different women whom he was close to, and eventually met his husband and partner of 27 years. Working full-time for two decades in Seattle as an activist for both gay and non-gay causes, particularly with the black community (his husband is black), Haggerty even ran for office twice, once for Seattle City Council and once for state representative—both times, he is sure to point out, as an independent.

Haggerty said the call from the label was totally unexpected. “The culture has really shifted,” he says. “It’s a statement about how far we’ve come.”

But Nashville has yet to sign an openly gay country artist, standing shamefully next to the NFL as one of the most behind-the-times organizations in American popular culture. With gay University of Missouri football star Michael Sam poised to go pro in the upcoming NFL draft, Nashville will be under added pressure to address what some believe to be deep-seated homophobia.

Chely Wright, a million-selling country artist, came out as gay in 2007, a dozen years after being named the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist. As a result, Wright has said, her sales halved.

The ABC nighttime soap Nashville has a story line involving a closeted country singer named Will Lexington, but Chris Carmack, the actor who plays him, told Out magazine, “I don’t think executives would give Will the time of day. That’s a damn shame, but in country music there’s a stigma that’s insurmountable.”

Shane McAnally, one of country music’s most successful songwriters, has a different take. He has penned hit singles for artists and bands from Lady Antebellum to Reba McEntire, and told The New York Times that his career didn’t take off until he came out. “When I stopped hiding who I am, I started writing hits. Nashville is a boys’ club of redneck conservative ideas,” he said. “But they’re ready to embrace gay people.”

If ever there were a candidate for Nashville to embrace, it’d be recent YouTube sensation Steve Grand, whose “All-American Boy” has racked up nearly three million views. The video finds Grand pining for a straight guy who locks eyes with him while hanging out with his girlfriend. But despite the video’s success, Grand has yet to sign with a Nashville label, opting instead to raise money for his debut album on Kickstarter. He easily reached his goal.

Haggerty, now 70, agrees there’s still work to be done. “Country music is not NASCAR and rednecks,” he says. “The base of people who listen to country music and the stereotype of who country music belongs to needs to be blown out. Nashville needs to get over that shit.”

Yet despite not being embraced by the country-music establishment, Haggerty says he’s grateful to have finally found an audience for Lavender Country, even a limited one, so many years later. “It is like somebody is finally listening to me,” he says. “The people in the gay movement at the time understood what it was about, but nobody else did. The very idea of gay country was so outlandish that people couldn’t listen to it. People couldn’t handle it.”

Whether Nashville recognizes it or not, the listeners are there now, and the reissue stands to take full advantage of the spotlight. The package comes with a 32-page booklet written by Haggerty and will be available as a digital download, on CD, and—for the first time since 1973—on vinyl. His reassembled group will also play a few gigs to celebrate the release, including an appearance at this year’s Seattle Pride, which Haggerty has played a handful of times.

And though he isn’t playing “Cryin’  These Cocksucking Tears” regularly these days, Haggerty is still active in music; for a dozen years, he’s been playing upward of 100 shows a year on the senior circuit in Kitsap and Pierce counties. The pay isn’t great, but the satisfaction is, “singing old songs to old people.” And thanks to renewed interest in an old album, Haggerty isn’t finished with the stage just yet. - Seattle Weekly

"Music’s Big Gay Country Story"

Early in our conversation about the LGBTQ community within the music industry, singer and former model Steve Grand and I find a shared love of Kacey Musgraves’ hit from a year and a half ago. Grand, a 24-year-old singer-songwriter, calls from his home outside Chicago and speaks with an impassioned tone, but in a quiet timbre. “It’s a great tune,” he begins. “It’s not just a great tune, but it’s a tune that speaks to the movement towards equality.”

Grand’s country-tinged “All-American Boy” became a YouTube sensation just a few months before Musgraves’ hit, which gained traction because it shares the same traits as its predecessor — it’s catchy and socially inclusive. Like Shane McAnally, who co-wrote “Follow Your Arrow”, Grand is a gay man who is openly out in the country music scene.

Although he doesn’t like to pigeonhole himself as a country singer specifically, Grand accepts the genre correlations and leverages them to his and his fans’ benefit. “’All-American Boy’, the song even apart from the video, does have a country-esque vibe to it,” he allows. “There’s definitely influences of country in some of my music. I definitely like country music, but I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say I’m a country singer. Some of my fans really did see me as a country artist, and that was empowering for some people, so I didn’t want to take that away from anyone.”

Grand not only owns his sexuality but also acknowledges that doing so emboldens those who listen to his music. It’s a huge step for the LGBTQ community in an industry and a genre not known for embracing many socially liberal ideals. This is the music genre, of course, that still rebukes the Dixie Chicks for their political commentary in London in 2003 and protest song “Not Ready to Make Nice” in 2006. In fact, just two months ago, Questlove wrote on his Instagram that the radio blacklisting and cultural spurning still affect the Dixie Chicks to this day.

ll stereotypes of conservatism and pickup trucks aside, there just haven’t been very many openly LGBTQ singers in country music. That seems to be changing, though, and it’s all leading up to why 2015 should be a progressive year for acceptance, equality, and expanding the spectrum of sexuality in country music.

The momentum that Grand and “Follow Your Arrow” started in 2013 continued last year, as well. In March, the independent North Carolina label Paradise of Bachelors re-released the lone record from Lavender Country, the first gay country band. During the fall, lesbian country singer Chely Wright raised almost $250,000 in her Kickstarter campaign to fund a new record she’s now working on. It was the sixth most successful music campaign in Kickstarter’s history and the company’s most prosperous country music project. And in November, country star Ty Herndon (who declined to comment for this story) announced that he’s gay just a few hours before yet another artist, Billy Gilman, recorded and released his own coming-out video on YouTube.

But coming out and making a living playing country music wasn’t always as easy as Gilman recording his YouTube video or Wright relying on her fans to subsidize a record. When Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country made his record in 1973, he knew he had no chance of breaking into the country music scene. “The door was slammed absolutely shut,” he states from his home outside Seattle.

Haggerty, now in his 70s, speaks genially with a bit of a nasally accent. He likes to personalize conversation and pepper wry commentary with affectionate pet names like “girlfriend.” He recalls, “I knew that I was never going to get into Nashville in any kind of way — through the back door, through the front door, down the chimney, up the roof … after I made Lavender Country.

“I knew it. They knew it. There was no point in even knocking on it,” he continues. ”It allowed me to say what I wanted to say. It opened up the whole thing.”

The band he began, with the help of countless other musicians and individuals in the Greater Seattle area, produced 1,000 copies of their self-titled LP and released it via Gay Community Social Services. The 10 songs on Lavender Country serve simultaneously as indignant protests of discrimination and joyful pride in being honest with themselves. The four-piece group played with traditional country instrumentation — guitars, resonators, keys, and a fiddle — and Haggerty’s voice, nasally even then, rings clearly in songs with titles like “Back in the Closet Again” and “Straight White Patterns”.

Without being able to afford to press more copies of Lavender Country, much less make a living singing gay country music, Haggerty and the band carried on for almost five years and then disappeared. As Haggerty remembers, “Lavender Country went to sleep, and I had other songs to sing, other movements to be involved in.

“I would have loved to have had a career in country music. It would have been fabulous. It would have been my heart’s dream,” he says. “Gay liberation came along, and my heart’s dream and desire changed. And I had to choose, ‘What do you want to do here? Do you want to pursue a career in country music, or do you want to ride the gay liberation movement and do the gay liberation movement fully and completely and openly and honestly? What do you want to do?’ And so I made my choice.”

During the peak of his activism career from 1970-80, Haggerty also wrote articles, published gay magazines, wrote fairy tales about sexual oppression, gave speeches, and organized symposiums. He also ran for office with men from the Nation of Islam as an independent on a Black-Gay unity slate that actually received more than 15% of the vote.

But in the wider country music scene, the gap between Lavender Country and Chely Wright’s public announcement in 2010 was decades long and sparsely populated with openly LGBTQ musicians. Throughout the 1990s, Doug Stevens & The Outband gained recognition for their LGBTQ country songs. Stevens, a professional opera singer, grew up in rural Mississippi, and The Outband served as his post-classical career move. Canadian singer-songwriter k.d. lang came out in 1992, but her diverse musical style has since edged away from country. Gay writer and country-folk musician Mark Weigle released his first record, The Truth Is, in 1998. Openly gay, ex-Mormon, ex-gay therapy survivor Justin Utley also plays a style of folksy acoustica that could be described as country. His first album dropped in 1996, and his musical career has been wide-ranging since.

With horror stories abounding about out LGBTQ artists losing their record deals, getting kicked out of bands, or just not being able to find work because of sexual discrimination, many of today’s young-and-out artists still struggle with sharing their stories and making sound business decisions in the industry while still appeasing fans. And with so few openly LGBTQ singers in the country music scene, they don’t have many people to look to for guidance and support.

Herndon chose the mainstream media path and Wright released a memoir called Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer and a documentary entitled Wish Me Away to announce their personal preferences, respectively. As Wright writes via email, “Of course, I could have just tweeted, ‘Yep, I’m gay,’ but that wouldn’t have done much to change the status quo. In writing my book, I was able to tell the very nuanced stories of what it’s like for anyone who is closeted. Details matter, and my sharing my journey so publicly has mattered to a lot of folks.”

She continues, “I wanted to seize the opportunity to essentially force country music into having a truthful dialogue about people like me … I had a chance to reveal my truth to people who thought that gay people are in no way like them. But because I am SO much like country music fans — patriotic, a person of faith, a lover of country music — I had a chance to really challenge those stereotypes and to ultimately change a few hearts and minds.”

Gilman decided to take another route altogether, telling his fans directly by recording a heartfelt coming-out announcement and posting it to YouTube. The young country star first cracked the charts when he was 11 years old, becoming the youngest singer with a song on the Top 40 country music charts. Now, he’s prepping for a national tour and planning on releasing a few more songs from last year’s “Say You Will” sessions in the coming months.

“My love is with country, but if they don’t accept me for who I am, then I have to move on and find other ways to be successful in my work, which is singing,” he says calling from Nashville. “But the main focus was to have that support from my fans, and I have that. I think the country fans are opening their eyes to the fact that it’s no big deal! I think that is what’s changing faster than the industry.”

Similarly, Grand notes that with his Kickstarter-funded debut album dropping March 24th, he hasn’t spent enough time in the industry to comment on the institutionalized challenges. But because his fans enjoyed his music and supported him enough to fund the third most successful music Kickstarter, he’s able to write and perform for the people who don’t care about his sexual preference.

Because as Haggerty explains, “Everybody can love country music. And a lot of people for a long time who are not conservative have loved country music. So when we think of country music being conservative, what we’re talking about — just to be straight up — is a little, tiny oligarchy on top of the industry that’s dictating what they think their audience wants to hear. They’re transmitting their own values. The oligarchy is capable of molding or shoving down the throats what they deem their audience wants to hear. I’ve always thought that the repression against gays never really did come from the bottom up. It’s always been the top.”

In addition to their musical activism, each of these rising out stars has a history of social work, raising awareness and funds for LGBTQ causes. Wright notes relationships with people at GLAAD, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Faith in America, Human Rights Campaign, National Council of La Raza, and Family Equality Council. Grand has performed at Pride events around the nation and has partnered with causes such as the Human Rights Campaign and Anti-Violence Project.

In late January, Gilman traveled to Los Angeles for the opening of West Hollywood’s first country-western-themed gay bar, Flaming Saddles Saloon. “I’m being honored by the mayor of Hollywood for my efforts on behalf of the youth of the LGBT, which is pretty amazing,” he exudes. “I could not believe it! I mean Hollywood! Coming from Nashville and country! It’s pretty amazing!”

Gilman continues, “I’ve always been an advocate for so many causes, like St. Jude’s or the Muscular Dystrophy Association … I’ve done a lot of stuff like that over the years, and I thought that now that I came to terms with myself, why not be an advocate?

“The amount of emails that I read that say, ‘Thank you,’ ‘I no longer feel alone,’ ‘You’re giving me a voice,’ ‘You don’t even know me, but I just felt the need to say thank you’ — that, probably, in this moment, is the most rewarding factor of this whole situation: knowing that I’m helping someone. This whole situation is bigger than any of us. All we can really do is come together and not even in this one specific instance of being gay or straight or whatever. The world just needs camaraderie.”

And music has that strange sort of magical element that brings people together. As Grand affirms, “Music is inherently activism because music is about getting people to see things from different perspectives. Music just does that. And sometimes, music is just fun. But even that brings people together. So inherently, music just has that activist role.”

But in a country in which one-third of the population still doesn’t live in a state with marriage equality and 36% still oppose it, there is much work yet to be done.

“When Nashville allows gay people to sing [gay] songs and sing them at the Grand Ole Opry, that’s when the job will be done,” maintains Haggerty. “Until then, don’t kid yourself. We’re still working on it.”

Wright tempers his proclamation, but only slightly. “LGBT musicians, writers, producers, and artists all play a part in helping country music bend toward equality simply by being visible,” she says. “We have a long way to go in America and a long way to go in our genre of country music.” - Consequence of Sound

"Lavender Country's 40 Years of Pride"

Real talk: Homosexuality and country music aren't the most compatible concepts, even in 2014. So an openly gay country band singing explicitly gay lyrics... in the early 1970s?

Lavender Country—with the original lineup of lead singer and guitarist Patrick Haggerty, keyboardist Michael Carr, vocalist and fiddle-player Eve Morris, and lead guitarist Robert Hammerstrom—formed in Seattle in 1972, and their self-titled 1973 album is recognized as the first gay-themed country album ever. The album's 10 songs are sweet, funny, liltingly lo-fi, and—with lyrics like "There's milk and honey flowin' when you're blowin' Gabriel's horn" and a song straight-up called "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears"—super gay by any era's standards.

After the band dissolved in 1976, the now-70-year-old Haggerty—who grew up on a dairy farm in the Port Angeles area—left music to work in activism, raise a family, and even run for office. A 1999 article in the Journal of Country Music titled "Country Undetectable: Gay Artists in Country Music" sparked the first wave of interest in Lavender Country, which led to the album being archived in the Country Music Hall of Fame. A few months ago, North Carolina label Paradise of Bachelors reissued the album on CD and vinyl with a 32-page chapbook of Haggerty's lyrics, photos, and oral history, and Lavender Country's profile blew up with interviews, glowing reviews, and a spot on Pitchfork's "Best New Reissues" list.

Lavender Country played the very first Seattle Pride at the Seattle Center in 1974 ("Wrap your mind around that!" as Haggerty would say). This year—Seattle Pride's 40th—on a float filled with other 40-year Pride "veterans," Haggerty will play Lavender Country during the parade, and then again at the Seattle Center, truly coming full circle. (Or full triangle?) Haggerty told me the Lavender Country story, which included lots of laughing and even some tears—I don't remember the last time I've talked to anyone on the phone for so long (almost 90 minutes!) and been captivated the entire time. He's a true treasure, and the story is incredible.

What kinds of shows were Lavender Country playing in Seattle in the 1970s?

There were numerous educational events, speaking engagements, symposiums—it was a time to educate. Seattle's lesbian/gay community made Lavender Country—in every sense of the word. We even created Gay Community Social Services so that we could produce the Lavender Country album. We had to go to the studio, we had to pay the people who pressed our album, and then we had a thousand albums on our hands with absolutely no way to distribute them except by word of mouth, mimeographed rags, and underground gay shit that was going on around the country. We had to rent a post office box! It was a huge community effort—it's literally true, I'm not speaking glibly. For ourselves, by ourselves.

We played gay community events in Seattle and the Northwest for about four years, then around 1976, Lavender Country died out and we went into our own lives. I wasn't even doing music, I was doing gay and other activist work for many years in Seattle. When I was raising my children, they didn't even know me as a musician.

Then there was a renewed interest in 1999, after the Chrissie Dickinson article in the Journal of Country Music, right?

After the article, we tried to get something going with Lavender Country—we made a thousand CDs ourselves [of the original self-titled album] with no promotion or label. We mostly gave them away or sent them out to gay bookstores. Again, we didn't have a distribution network. But the experience brought my music back to life, and I have been doing music constantly since then. I hooked up with Doug Stevens and the Out Band so we could do Lavender Country stuff and his stuff, and I got to work with these really top-notch folks for years. But we still couldn't get gay country anywhere. And so Lavender Country died again.

Meanwhile, I had found a really great harmonica player—a blues guy who happened to end up in Bremerton—a heterosexual guy, very friendly, and I got to working with him. We have been doing old songs at senior centers and Alzheimer's units. We've been singing old songs to old people for about 12 years now.

Then came a sort of second chance with the reissue of Lavender Country on Paradise of Bachelors this year, which has really taken off.

Somebody put "Cocksucking Tears" on YouTube. And I didn't know. I don't do YouTube. I knew nothing. Somebody else—a music aficionado/promoter type—heard it and found an old vinyl copy for sale on eBay. Paradise of Bachelors, despite the name, is not a gay label—it's folklore. But the person who bought the vinyl thought that this up-and-coming folklore label was the perfect place for it. So I still don't know anything—I'm singing old songs to old people—and the phone rings, and they're offering me a contract. And the first thing that crosses my mind is, "You are selling encyclopedias, and I don't have time for this." I mean, who gets that? Right? [Starts yelling theatrically] Who gets that? You're a music editor, right? THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN! RIGHT? [Laughs] But it did happen.

The reissue on vinyl comes with a 32-page chapbook of photos, lyrics, and an oral history. How was it, putting that together?

It’s been very busy since I got that call in October. It was a huge job putting together that booklet—collecting all the photographs, doing the interview, getting my life story, it took a lot of time. But we should talk about Brendan Greaves at Paradise of Bachelors, who did all the work with me. Brendan is 35 years old, he’s from North Carolina, he’s heterosexual, he’s been married for several years, he just had a baby—that’s who he is. And he’s all over Lavender Country. He’s so primed and so excited, and I have never dealt with a heterosexual man who is more kind, more concerned, more thoughtful, more caring, hip, with-it, got-it, non-homophobic—I mean, he was just an absolute joy and delight to work with every step of the way. And I’m saying this because that couldn’t have happened 30 years ago. That probably couldn’t have happened 20 years ago. If I could find one drop of homophobia in the sea of who Brendan is, I mean, it’s not there. It’s a great story about him personally, but what the real truth is, is there’s whole bunch of Brendans out there. A whole bunch.

And Brendan helped you put on a Lavender Country show in Los Angeles in March to celebrate the release?

The show that we did in Los Angeles wasn’t a gay community event. It was produced by Paradise of Bachelors in conjunction with a friend they had in LA who was getting a new music venue going called the Church that was for these young, mostly white, grunge-o, hip, punkster, screamer, under-35 music-lovers of Los Angeles—that’s who shows up. So it’s like 250 people in the room, and they didn’t know me. They came because this was a gay country record made 40 years ago—they came for the idea. And I’m telling you, that show was magical. I’d say it was about 80 percent heterosexual, and you could hear a pin drop through the entire hour and a half that we were onstage. I have never played to a more attentive and respectful audience in my life [Haggerty chokes up, I start to choke up]. They were hanging on every word I had to say. A sea of young heterosexuals, men and women—and that’s where they’re at. It was like Rip Van Winkle and Alice in Wonderland—playing to that audience when I’ve never played Lavender Country to a non-gay audience before. It blew me away. They were ready to hear it.

That is so incredible.

It really was. But the bottom line is that of course this whole thing is a huge, luscious, unbelievably enormous ego trip, but let's not go there. Because [chokes up] what's really important is that we've succeeded at our goal, to the point where the mainstream culture is ready to listen. It's not like we didn't know what Lavender Country was when we made it—we did know. We did know how significant it was. We did know how good the lyrics were, and how well it laid out the struggle piece-by-piece. All these things that people are discovering now—we knew it when we made it. So the fact that nobody wanted to listen to it for 40 fucking years [laughs], that was a stone in my throat. They couldn't wrap their minds around that it was explicitly gay music. Plus, it was country. I mean, who ever heard of anything as absurd as gay country?

The fact that it was gay, the fact that it was country, the fact that it had “Cocksuckin Tears” on it—those were the things that made it die for 40 years. And then the pancake flipped over—when I wasn’t even watching, when I was singing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” to Alzheimer’s patients—and the very things that held it back are now the exact properties that are propelling it forward. They’re literally selling the same recording we made in 1973.

So what’s going down with Lavender Country at this year’s Pride?

They built a huge float, and on the float will be bleachers filled with old timers, and on the back of the float will be the Lavender Country band—we’re going to be playing to the same people that we played to in 1974—wrap your mind around that [laughs]! That float, after Dykes on Bikes of course, will be leading the parade. And then we’re playing a full set at Seattle Center, too. And I want to take a minute to talk about Rebecca Valrejean. She was a very early out-lesbian recording artist. And she made some out-lesbian records in Seattle just a couple years after Lavender Country. So all the old timers know her. And it turns out that she’s one of my best friends in the whole world! She’s also going to be performing at Seattle Center. Oh wow, talk about dreams come true. She’s very excited. I mean, we’re intimate friends. I’ve never had sex with her, but at this point, I may as well have. You should check her out.

Of course, we have to talk about the very first Seattle Pride in 1974! What was that like?

It's so trippy—we were there. And I can remember saying, "Oh God, you guys, this is so exciting, there are 200 people here!" [Laughs] No kidding, we thought that was so great. Like, "Wow, [hoots] let's celebrate!" We were so happy that 200 people came to gay pride. And of course, now there's more like 200,000.

That definitely says a lot about the strides the movement has made since then.

In terms of a social movement, 40 years is really fast. The black struggle has been going on for hundreds of years, and I don’t even need to talk to you about the women’s thing. And you all are still in pitched battle—and the victories are not there. There’s a whole lot facing both communities of people of color and women. There are terrifying things happening in both communities. And the gay movement has surged forward, which is interesting. Even though I’m really proud of the gay movement, and the strides that we’ve made are magnificent, and yes we should celebrate them fully, we’re not done here.

Definitely not. When did you discover or become involved in activism? You were pretty radical for that time.

We should talk about my father. My dad was a bit of an activist himself with left-leaning politics, and I learned about capitalism at his knee. But he was also so good about the way he handled me that I had no idea how exceptional he was. I knew that he loved me, and I knew that he was a good dad, but I thought all dads loved their kids. I didn't see anything unusual, I just thought he was treating me fair [Haggerty chokes up, I definitely choke up].

He saw it when I was about 6, but we couldn't even talk about me being gay—we didn't even have a word for it, we were a Catholic family. I had older brothers, and of course they noticed it and called me sissy. And I have so many stories, but there was an incident when I was about 9. I was playing Cleopatra of the Nile on the lake, when I wasn't supposed to be on the lake, and my brothers wanted our dad to get on me about playing Cleopatra. They wanted to turn me into a man. But he wouldn't do it. My dad made it clear to my brothers that I was being punished for being on the lake by myself without permission, and I was not being punished for playing Cleopatra—he spelled that out in no uncertain terms. And I just thought he was being fair.

The first place you learn to be ashamed is from your father. But I'm running around in drag! I'm 15 years old, I'm in full-on ballerina drag going to a Catholic organization talent show—my drag is so convincing that nobody in the audience even knows it's me, even though I've been going to church with these people every Sunday for the last 10 years. And my dad drove me to the show. And he was the only one who knew who I was.

With a father like that in rural Washington, on a farm, in a completely redneck environment, in 1955—if you have a father like that, history demands that you make the first gay country album! Of course I'm supposed to do that! I am who I am because my dad had my back. - The Stranger

"Out West: Patrick Haggerty Of Lavender Country Interviewed"

"At once a scathing indictment of the injustices perpetrated on the homosexual community, a proud proclamation of gay identity, and a love letter of bracing intimacy and eroticism, the album radically appropriates the signifiers of the conservative country genre, queering its heteronormative vocabulary into a deeply personal language."

Now that was promotional blurb to grab our attention. The LP that Brendan Greaves and Christopher Smith of Paradise Of Bachelors were waxing so lyrical about is Lavender Country, recently reissued by the North Carolina label. Sponsored by the Gay Community Social Services of Seattle Lavender Country's self-titled 1973 release was cited by Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame as the first openly gay country album. This would be enough reason to delve deeper, but even without the intriguing narrative this is a re-issue that you need to hear. As soulful as it was revolutionary Lavender Country filtered the country storytelling of Lee Hazlewood and the psych-folk of the Holy Modal Rounders through the theatrical lens of surrealist drag troupe The Cockettes. But who was responsible for this fearless and unique LP?

Raised on a dairy farm in Dry Creek, Washington on the border of Canada, Patrick Haggerty moved to Seattle in 1970 in the empowering aftermath of Stonewall. There he created Lavender Country as a reaction to the prejudice he had experienced at first hand, penning numbers like 'Back In The Closet Again' and 'Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears'. Becoming involved in Seattle's burgeoning gay rights movement, he used the band to spread information on gay rights to those who might not have received it elsewhere. Where the gay community in cities like New York and San Francisco expressed their newfound freedoms though disco in the years after Stonewall, Haggerty chose country. "Maybe it was a brazen thing to do, to come out with a gay country album: On the other hand, why not?" he says in the sleeve notes of this timely re-issue. "I think we forget that gay people come from everywhere. And I came from Dry Creek, Washington…listening to Patsy Cline."

In the same notes he describes the tough but loving environment he was raised in by his tenant farmer parents. "The downside of my childhood was the huge amount of labour that was involved that was way too much for any child. But the upside was that I had committed, intelligent devoted non-abusive and engaged parents," he tells me over the phone. It was certainly needed in the small farming community where he was raised. "Dry Creek was idyllic in terms of its setting. It was really very pretty. But it was also very stereotypically American 1950s redneck. There was rampant racism especially towards the Native Americans. Then there was the other abuse such as wife beating and of course homophobia." But despite "running around Clapham County, Washington with a bunch of redneck loggers in drag," his family shielded him from the worst of the hate: "My father died when I was 17 but he was more aware of me as a homosexual than I was. He saw where I was headed but I hadn't wrapped my mind around it yet. He was very progressive." Before he died his dad left him with some guiding words. "He told me 'not to sneak'. Isn't that an amazing thing to say? I didn't want to know what he meant at the time. I knew but it was before I came out to myself. He was dying when he told me that. That was in 1960." His father passed away a year later and Patrick went through the sixties in the closet.

In 1966 he was thrown out of the Peace Corps for his relationship with another man. After being interviewed by their psychiatrist he was left depressed and confused. He would return to this and the punishment of gay people at the hands of 1960s state hospitals on 'Waltzing Will Trilogy' one of his most poignant songs: "They call it mental hygiene. But I call it psychic rape," he sang. As he puts it in the sleevenotes: "It was a mess, I had no information, there was no help. I had to figure it out for myself." But his life would be changed by events thousand of miles away in New York. "I came out with the Stonewall rebellion," he says. "I had barely turned sixteen when my dad told me not to sneak. But I had to go through High School, I'd been through college, got thrown out of the Peace Corps, and all the time hiding. This was all before I had a conscious gay identity to so it was a very traumatic experience for me. I was in a place called Missoula, Montana when the Stonewall riots happened. And as soon as I heard about the riots I was out that day. Right away, boom. I was so ready I came screaming out."

The Seattle he discovered on arrival in 1970 was everything that Dry Creek wasn't. "Seattle was a great place to come out. It was probably one of the top four cities in terms of being a favourable environment to be gay. And if you were going to be part of the gay liberation movement it was a great choice. Seattle was ahead of the curve on the gay issue from the beginning. Don't let anyone tell you that San Francisco was the seed of the American gay movement because it's not true. Seattle was ahead almost every time. It was the first in a lot of things. San Francisco was probably more of a Mecca socially but not politically." After years of hiding Haggerty made up for lost time: "I went to a gay liberation meeting in the summer of 1970 and it was at someone's house but that fell apart. So then two months later I was doing a gay liberation collective out of my house. There was already a counselling service for homosexuals in Seattle and it became the seat of the lesbian and gay movement. There was also a Gay Community Centre there really early on. There was a lot of movement that came out of there. So those were the two places that the activity came out of."

Patrick had first heard country music like any young kid in isolated rural America across the airwaves. "Where I grew up I was 100 miles from the nearest concert venue. I never went to a concert as a child nor did anyone I knew at the time. Nobody did, they were too far away. So whatever music we heard was what came over the radio. And that was 80% country music. Patsy Cline and Hank Williams and that whole set. That is what I grew up with and cut my teeth on. That's what I knew and loved." Were there any particular singers he connected with? "I was pretty drawn to female country singers," he says. "Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, and the earlier ones like Patsy Montana. I was drawn to female country, I really was. I still am." Again it was his parents who helped him, as music became his great love. "My dad bought me a guitar," he says. "My parents were atonal, they really were. But they noticed I had a musical flare and my father responded to it by buying me the guitar. Our little four-room school was blessed with a principal called Mrs Thomas who was a gifted musician. She taught me a lot. I got the fundamentals of reading music from her." While he was too busy with the farm to do music in his early teens, he remembers getting seriously into playing when he got to college.

Despite becoming known in Seattle as a singer and guitar player, Lavender Country was Haggerty's first band. It began with a song directed at the left wing movement. "'Back In The Closet Again' was my first song," he says. "I thought it was so ironic that we were having to kick our way into the socialist and progressive movement, never mind mainstream society. They didn't want to hear about homosexuals either. So that's what that song was about." On hearing the song people in the movement encouraged him to write more. "Then the idea of writing a whole album of gay music came up amongst the people we were working with. And many people started to get behind it," he recalls. The band he assembled included three other gay musicians, including his pianist friend Michael Carr and fiddle player Eve Morris who wrote 'To A Woman'.

As soon as word got around about the plans for a gay country LP the community provided support. "I want to emphasise really strongly that I could never have made Lavender Country by myself. I couldn't even consider it," he says. "The lesbian and gay movement in Seattle took on Lavender Country as a project. There was so much to do. And many people were involved, not just the musicians. We had to raise the money. We had to figure out a way to try and distribute the album, and we had to get a PO Box, and to keep track of the money and borrow money."

Pressing up 1,000 copies of the LP with the support of the Gay Community Social Services and various donations, they spread the word of a gay country LP through mimeographed ads in gay underground papers. "The people we made Lavender Country for were the gay and lesbian people across the country that were in the closet. That was the bunch we made it for. I don't think anyone who was interested in buying gay music in 1973 turned down the LP because it was country. You see what I am saying? People were going after the information that was in the album. We were all desperate for information back then. There was very little at the time." The words of the opening track 'Come Out Singing' were intended by Haggerty to act like a beacon to closeted people across the country. They read: "Waking up to say hip hip hooray. I'm glad I'm gay. Can't repress my happiness. Ever since I tried your way. Gonna lay right here and greet the sun, 'Cause gay time lovin's just begun. So come one, let's tumble in the hay." Listening back to the album now, Haggerty gives a good description of the Lavender Country sound and message: "It's a little raggedy, it's a little rough around the edges. In some aspects it's a little bit amateurish. But the album is valid, the album is heartfelt, the album lays out our struggle personally, interpersonally, socially and politically. It lays out the struggle of what was happening for homosexuals in America at that time. And it does it very well."

They toured the album across the gay community culminating in a 1974 performance at Gay Pride in both Seattle and San Francisco. But the LP remained a cult item pretty much unknown outside of the gay community. Patrick Haggerty went on to get married and raise a family and thought Lavender Country was a thing of the past, until he was approached out of the blue one day. "That is a remarkable story in itself," he says. "What I do now with music is I have a partner who plays harmonica and we sing songs to old people at places like senior centres. We sing covers that the old folk want to hear. I'm doing that and I haven't even thought about Lavender Country for years. Lavender Country has gone completely back to sleep. I'm not listening to it or thinking about it. Anyway without me knowing it, 'Cocksucking Tears' had been put on YouTube and somebody heard it and went to eBay and found a used vinyl for sale. And they knew the folks who were running Paradise Of Bachelors and took a copy to them and said, 'Look at this'. At the time I knew nothing about eBay, YouTube or Paradise of Bachelors. I am completely oblivious and ignorant to all of this. I'm just singing songs to old people and living with my husband. And the label calls me up and offers me a contract out of the blue. Can you imagine that? I'm just minding my own business and someone called me up and offered me a contract on a record I made 40 years ago. I was just astonished. It's like a Cinderella story, it really is." Interestingly for Haggerty was the nature of the label that approached him. "They pursue American folklore and that is perfect because that is where I now see Lavender Country. It belongs in American folklore. So the right people found it at the right time – they really did."

I end by asking Patrick how things have changed since he first conceived the project back in the early 1970s. "There has been a paradigm shift in who is interested in Lavender Country in the same way as there's been a paradigm shift in where we are drawing these lines. When we made the LP in 1973 there was a huge line between gay and straight and in the last 40 years it's steadily changed and that line has shifted. We are really dividing into two groups. The white, conservative, supposedly Christian, haters. They want to hate blacks, they want to hate gays, they want to hate immigrants. We all come in a package to them. On one side you have those people who insist on having this society where hate is the order of the day, and on the other side of the line are the people who are saying we don't want that kind of culture. And so now huge numbers of heterosexual people are also turning onto Lavender Country and identifying with it, believing it's their music. And it is." - The Quietus

"The new reissue of 1973's legendary Lavender Country recalls the early days of gay activism"

The processes of popular music produce plenty of art that is worked out to the tiniest detail, but sometimes art works best when it's artless. As countless semi-professional rock, soul and folk records attest, content can be more important than formalist finish, and that's the case with the reissue of the 1973 full-length Lavender Country, a record that has gained a place in history as the first openly gay country album. It's good music — singer and songwriter Patrick Haggerty may not have been a country vocalist or songwriter on the level of Moe Bandy or Bobby Braddock, but that's not the point. Unlike Bandy and Braddock, Haggerty chose to sing and write about the way society's strictures deformed desires that society now largely deems perfectly acceptable, and he couched his insights in music that was both populist and solipsistic.

Lavender Country does have a connection to Nashville's mainstream country music. Haggerty's record was explicated in Chris Dickinson's groundbreaking 1999 piece in The Journal of Country Music, "Country Undetectable: Gay Artists in Country Music." As a result of Dickinson's article, Haggerty put together a reissue of Lavender Country, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum archived the record. The new reissue of Lavender Country comes in a deluxe package from North Carolina label Paradise of Bachelors, whose previous reissues include excavations of a bizarre Nashville-outlaw record by Chance Martin and an equally strange self-released album about post-Vietnam War trauma.

"At the time of the 1999 article, we made a CD of the original record," Haggerty tells the Scene from his Bremerton, Wash., home. "But it was a small production, and it was something we put together ourselves. This reissue is a much bigger deal."

Haggerty's pioneering music deserves the attention, but he's continued to play music since the original release of Lavender Country by Seattle's Gay Community Social Services, which financed the recording and pressing of the record. Born in 1944, Haggerty grew up on a dairy farm in Port Angeles, Wash., a town about 90 miles from Seattle.

"I didn't have a lot of training in music, and my dad bought me my first guitar," Haggerty says. "I was listening to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, although I had deep country roots in my music. I followed country music as a child, and I was more into Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold — the earlier bunch. Because of my childhood, those were the ones that really sunk into my heart."

Lavender Country sounds something like a country record, though the drumless tracks have a homemade quality that's enhanced by Michael Carr's piano, which takes the songs to places Hargus Robbins could not have imagined. "Gypsy John" features interplay between Eve Morris' violin and the guitars of Haggerty and Robert Hammerstrom. "Waltzing Will Trilogy" begins with a lazy blues lick before gathering strength to continue in a faster tempo that's anchored by a crazed rock 'n' roll guitar figure.

If the sound of Lavender Country sometimes recalls the style of similar post-countercultural efforts by such avant-garde folk performers as Ed Sanders and The Holy Modal Rounders — in the reissue's liner notes, Paradise of Bachelors heads Brendan Greaves and Christopher Smith compare the music to that of Woody Guthrie, Charles Mingus and Public Enemy, which may be taking things too far — Haggerty's lyrics provide a tour of the battered psyche of a man who simply wants to live his life free of equivocation.

"Trying to make a record that was gonna appeal to country fans was really out of the question, considering the content," Haggerty says. "But I was trying to make the record to appeal to people who were coming out. I made it for people who were forming the political consciousness of a gay identity. It was successful — I mean, there were a thousand copies, and we sold them all."

Much like a '70s mainstream country singer, Haggerty laid out a social reality that may have seemed foreign to many of the era's listeners. Moe Bandy sang about the terrors of infidelity in 1974's "I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today," while Haggerty explored the somewhat more life-threatening rigors of gay life in Lavender Country's greatest track, "Waltzing Will Trilogy," a song about mental institutions and sadistic prison guards who abuse gay inmates. It's safe to say no Nashville country songwriter of the era would have written about "straight white honky quacks." Elsewhere, Haggerty makes a neat job of the minor-keyed "Georgie Pie," which explores "the closets of seclusion" that the record rails against.

In the mid-'70s, Haggerty disbanded the group that made Lavender Country, and today he plays music for people living in retirement centers around Seattle, which seems to satisfy him. He says he's playing a few dates to promote the reissue, and sounds like a man who knows his place in history.

"I wasn't silly when I made Lavender Country — I knew that it threw me out of Nashville forever," he says. "But the nice thing about making an album from that headspace was that I didn't have to equivocate. To who, for what?" - Nashville Scene

"AllMusic Review - Lavender Country"

Country music tends to reflect a more socially and politically conservative state of mind than most other forms of popular music. That was even more the case in the early '70s than it is today, which makes Lavender Country's first and only album seem all the more brave and unexpected: it was the first album of openly gay-themed country songs, from a band of out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians. In 1973, Patrick Haggerty was a musician and activist who wanted to use music as a means of passing along what he called "the information," basic social and cultural communication in a time when the LGBT community (which didn't even have that name yet) was still struggling to find out what was going on from city to city. Haggerty had grown up listening to country music, and he began writing songs that reflected his own experiences, as well as the larger concerns of the gay community in Seattle, his adopted hometown. With the help of a local activist group, Gay Community Social Services of Seattle, Haggerty and his band recorded a ten-song album, and sold out their independent pressing of 1,000 LPs. Just four years after Stonewall, the mere fact the Lavender Country album existed was an impressive achievement, but several decades after the fact, Lavender Country still works because Haggerty was a talented songwriter whose lyrics range from the randy pleasures of "Come Out Singing" and the screed against sexual gamesmanship "Crying These C**sing Tears" to the tales of institutional abuse in "Waltzing Will Trilogy" and the bitter political messages of "Back in the Closet Again." Haggerty also built these songs around simple but sturdy melodies, and his voice (which suggests Will Geer's hipper younger brother) had a sly insouciance that expresses humor and anger equally well. And if the rest of the band isn't quite as memorable, pianist Michael Carr, fiddler and vocalist Eve Morris, and guitar picker Robert Hammerstrom (the token straight ally in the group) give this music a loose but committed feel that speaks to political commitment as well as the desire to get the crowd hollerin'. Given that the most successful queer country artist to date, kd lang, ended up essentially abandoning country for different sounds after it was obvious Nashville wouldn't support her when she came out, the notion of a gay country album is still something of a novelty more than 40 years after Lavender Country was released. But if the issues have changed, the need for this music has not, and this album is fascinating as a pop culture landmark, as well as good listening from a songwriter with a pretty unique point of view. - AllMusic

"Music Review: Lavender Country"

A little over 40 years have passed since the release of the debut self-titled record from Lavender Country, widely considered to be the first openly gay country album. Now comes the reissue via Carrboro-based label Paradise of Bachelors, and the record ably stands the test of time with humorous lyrics, honest emotion and varied instrumentation. Lavender Country opens with a jangling piano and upbeat lyrics on “Come Out Singing,” highly indicative of the rest of the record.

Playful and catchy harmonizing and the sporadic inclusions of guitar and fiddle make for a fantastic opener. Patrick Haggerty’s raspy sincerity accentuates the album’s tone wonderfully. Combined with the raw emotion and silly wit, Haggerty remains a formidable presence on Lavender Country. Somber odes like “Gypsy John” and “Georgie Pie” are a welcome change of pace. Particularly, “Gypsy John” creatively incorporates a fiddle and fuzzy vocals for a heartrending look at the title character. In addition to challenging cultural norms associated with country, Lavender Country even steps away from traditional country stylistically, incorporating bluesy rock on “Waltzing Will Trilogy” and folk on “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You.”

The only place the record falters is with the out of place and melancholic “To a Woman.” The song, while technically fine, uses a female vocalist. She has a nice voice, but the song as a whole just isn’t in sync with the rest of the album. The record finishes strong with the poignant “Straight White Patterns” about the struggles and difficulties of being gay. The powerful emotions exhibited in this track are a reminder of the country’s darker past. While the lyrics might be too tongue-in-cheek at times, Lavender Country is a consistently fun and eye-opening listen. Ultimately, the album even stands out as more than a landmark record, fully able to survive simply on the merits of its music. - The Daily Tar Heal

"Interviews: Lavender Country"

In 1973, Lavender Country's Patrick Haggerty released what has come to be known as the first gay country music album. With a recent reissue in mind, the 70-year-old pioneer talks about the shifting lines of cultural acceptance. - Pitchfork


Lavender Country [Self Titled]
Released: 1973
Independent Release
Producer: Seattle Gay Community Social Services

Lavender Country [Reissue]
Released 2014
Vinyl, Digital
Label: Paradise of Bachelors



Lavender Country is the revival of the first openly gay country band, under the leadership of original frontman Patrick Haggerty.

Their landmark self-titled 1973 LP (recently rereleased by Paradise of Bachelors) stands as nothing less than an artifact of courage, a sonic political protest document of enormous power, clarity, and grace.

At once a scathing indictment of the injustices perpetrated on the homosexual community, a proud proclamation of gay identity, and a love letter of bracing intimacy and eroticism, the album radically appropriates the signifiers of the conservative country genre, queering its heteronormative vocabulary into a deeply personal language. Songwriter, singer, and guitarist Patrick Haggerty, a fearless first-generation gay liberation activist and artist, seasons his songs with Yippie deviousness; in the manner of the Cockettes, the laughs both sharpen and sweeten the impact. To our ears the inimitable aesthetics and glimpses of cockeyed humor recall some ethereal psych-folk nexus of the Flatlanders and the Holy Modal Rounders as much as any standard country and western forebears, rendering the biting poetry in an even more otherworldly and timeless light.

The record reflects Haggerty’s experiences: his upbringing on a tenant dairy farm in rural Washington, on the Canadian border; his dismissal from the Peace Corps on the spurious grounds of his sexuality; and his righteous struggles as an outraged young gay man navigating the Pacific Northwest in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall. He designed Lavender Country as a vehicle for what he deems “The Information”: valid cultural communications intended to resonate with those unable to access similar resources. (Playing “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears,” one of the indisputably great country song titles ever, cost a brave Seattle DJ her FCC license.)

Band Members