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Patrick Haggerty Patrick Haggerty 
By Doug Stevens

If you were around back in 1973, on the West Coast, and you were old enough, or out enough to go to Gay Pride Festivals, you would have very likely heard a gay country band playing out, political and sexual-liberation songs written in an old fashioned, Hank-Williams-like style. Gay liberation was new, the Gay Pride festivals were new, and music written and sung by and for gay people, about our lives, was unheard of! You had to be very brave and/or very fool-hardy to put your life and your career on the line by appearing openly as a gay person.

One of those brave, outspoken, brash pioneers was the guy who was up on that stage, 

singing those country songs that he had written. He was a little guy, 29 years old, and he didn’t understand at that point, what an impact those songs would have. He didn’t think of himself as an artist, but rather as a political activist. His purpose for writing those songs, performing them, and for recording them, was to make political and social change. This little guy was Patrick Haggerty and the album was called ‘Lavender Country.’ He had put together a band, by the same name, and they toured up and down the West Coast performing at pride events.

He and a lesbian friend decided to become parents, so they had a biological daughter, Robin. Then another friend of his, a black woman with an infant, moved in to his house with him bringing her baby, Amilcar. So, Patrick became the father for 2 children. His household was a Grand Central Station of gay and lesbian and black and feminist political activists, drag queens and transsexuals. His 2 children grew up in that environment. His daughter Robin said she would always remember as a child, being picked up at school by a drag queen. The drag queen in question was a man who had changed his name to ‘Faygele,’ a Yiddish term equivalent to ‘Fag.’ He always wore a purple shift with a big yellow star of David sewn onto the left breast, as  European Jews were required to wear during the Holocaust. It was Faygele who got the money together (by cashing unemployment checks) to record ‘Lavender Country.’ Lavender Country Cover Art

This was the first album of gay music ever to be recorded! Little did Faygele, Patrick and those activists realize that ‘Lavender Country,’ some 27 years later, would become the first, and so far, the only gay music archived at ‘The Country Music Hall of Fame.’

Back in 1992, when I first formed ‘The Outband,’ I used to tell people that we were the first gay country band ever to exist. It wasn’t until Richard Dworkin, the long time partner of AIDS activist, Michael Callen, joined my band as a drummer that I found out that I was wrong. Richard’s partner, Michael Callen had recently passed away and I was helping Richard pack and move things out of the apartment where they had both lived for years, when Richard pulled out a copy of ‘Lavender Country.’ He told me that we were not the first gay country band. Here was a band that had written and performed gay country music in the early 70’s. He also told me about having heard them perform at Gay Pride in San Francisco in 1972.

The original, 1973 ‘Lavender Country’ is certainly a piece of history. The songs are cleverly written and speak of the oppressive situations that gay people often found themselves in at the time. Some of the songs are funny some are sexual and others are down right tragic. A brave woman in the Seattle area played one of the songs, “Cocksuckin’ Tears’ on her radio program, and promptly had her FCC license revoked! We are not talking about non-gender specific lyrics here! The recording budget was not big enough to get a great sound studio, or to hire professionals to arrange the instrumentation. But, you get a great piece of history and some great, heart felt songs! No gay music collection is complete without this recording!

“Lavender Country” might have been forgotten if it weren’t for the work of Chrissie Dickinson of ‘The Country Music Hall of Fame.’ She was also the editor of ‘The Journal of Country Music,’ the publication produced by the Hall of Fame, at the time. Chrissie wanted to write an article about openly gay country singers. She called me to get some names and contact information and she asked me if I had ever heard of Patrick Haggerty and ‘Lavender Country.’ I told her that I had, but I didn’t know very much about them. And, I gave her Richard Dworkin’s number in New York. Through a serpentine search of musicians, political activists and music distributors, she finally found Faygele, then living in North Carolina, and he sent her to Patrick.

What followed, in the fall of 1999, was a groundbreaking article that shocked the Nashville scene with its celebration of openly gay country musicians. Chrissie wrote about gay country singers with admiration and respect. She celebrated our contribution to the tradition of country music and she was responsible for archiving “Lavender Country” at the ‘Country Music Hall of Fame.’ Much of the article was centered on Patrick Haggerty and “Lavender Country.” Patrick was happy that he was able to show the article to his mother before she passed away.

In January 2000, Patrick gave a staged concert of the original music from the 1973 “Lavender Country” album at the Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle. I was honored that he asked me to participate and to help out as music director. He brought in people from all over the country, including some people with whom he had worked on “Lavender Country” originally. Faygele made a surprise appearance, wearing that same purple shift with the star of David, only this time, in fragile health, he was pulling an oxygen tank around with him on the stage. The audience was filled with old political ‘lefties’ from the 70s and curious lesbians and gay men as well. Patrick and Faygele sat in rocking chairs in front of a large drawing of an old country house and talked about old times and the making of the recording. They laughed and cried recounting their exploits to a packed house. The audience laughed and cried with them. Faygele would pass away within a few months of that concert.

Since then Patrick has become a member of ‘The Outband,’ touring and performing at many different events across the country. He has a whole slew of new songs and the Outband is getting ready to record them in 2003. You better watch out for Patrick Haggerty!! He is just getting started!

Check out Patrick's LGCMA Section!

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