LGBTQ+ Pioneer Lavender Country: “If I could do a show with Lil Nas X, I would die happily and go to hell”
In 1973, Patrick Haggerty sat down to write a song about his anger at straight men. “I wanted to write a song about straight white male supremacy and how fucked up it is,” the 77-year-old recalled, speaking on the phone from his home in Bremerton, Wash., across the country. Seattle Bay. He called the song “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” and included it on his band’s self-titled debut album. lavender country, the first country album ever recorded by an openly gay artist. “That song put a scarlet letter on my back and made me untouchable,” he explains. “I had to choose between being a screaming Marxist bitch or going back to the closet and going to Nashville to try and do something with country music. I made my choice with my eyes open and I’ve never regretted it.
Only 1,000 copies of lavender country were pressed and sold via advertisements in the underground gay press. When they were gone, they were gone. Haggerty spent a few years performing his songs to audiences of other gay activists, then got a job as a social worker and moved on with his life. “lavender country died unrecognized and unnoticed,” he says. “It was so dead that I was married to my husband for three years before he even knew I had done it.”
That all changed in 2014, when Brendan Greaves, an American folklorist and co-founder of the Paradise of Bachelors label, received a YouTube upload of “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears.” Greaves was fascinated. “He called me and offered me a reissue deal. lavender country“recalls Haggerty. “I didn’t believe him. I thought he was selling encyclopedias and waited for the shoe to drop.
Greaves sent him a check for a $300 advance but Haggerty still suspected he was being scammed. He told the cashier at his local credit union to make sure the money was real. “She came back 10 minutes later and said, ‘I’ve checked every way I can to verify it and it’s valid. Here is your $300,” he said. “I got out in the car and saw the $300 and 40 years of pent up disappointment shatter. The dam broke, okay? ‘Oh my God, someone thinks lavender country worth $300!” Of course, I didn’t know that at the time, but it turned out lavender country was worth much more than that.
Three years ago, almost half a century after his first record, Haggerty returned to the studio to make a second Lavender Country album: Pink Mulberry. He recorded it in the home studio of original Lavender Country bandmate Robert Hammerstrom, and Hammerstrom released it on his own imprint Cyze-O-Graph Music. It is now getting a full release by independent label Don Giovanni. “Here’s the truth: I never stopped writing,” he says. “My room was full of scraps of paper, bits of songs I fantasized I was going to do one day.”
Haggerty was born September 27, 1944, in Hoquiam, Washington, and grew up on a farm in Port Angeles. His parents, Charles and Asylda, were dairy sharecroppers. Haggerty was the sixth of their 10 children. “My dad was a hick in clodhopper boots and Farmer Brown overalls, half his teeth missing, but that gruff, manly, tough exterior belied his inner person,” he says, stopping with a grip in the face. throat. “It’s hard to talk about my father without being emotional. He saw that I was gay very early. He approached the plate and said, “He’s the child God gave me to love, so I’ll have to find a way to do it.”
Life on the farm was hard. The family looked after a herd of 50 cows, which were milked twice a day at dawn and dusk. All children had to work. Aged 10, Haggerty lost control of a tractor he was driving. “I was probably singing show tunes instead of paying attention,” he laughs. “The tractor came down a barbed wire fence knocking down about 15 fence posts. A piece of barbed wire grabbed me and threw me from behind. Then the tractor crossed the driveway, hit an alder tree and exploded. His father saw the whole incident unfold. “His response was to take his last $20 and go to town and buy me a guitar. He said, ‘Here, play this and stay away from my machines.’
A few years later, Haggerty ran for “Prep Promoter” at her school, which equates to head cheerleader. He performed at an assembly wearing a pink dress, bright red lipstick and sequins all over his face, but when his father arrived at school that day, he saw his son duck down a hallway to avoid him. On the way home, walking through a field of hay, her father gave her advice that she will never forget: don’t sneak around. “Of all the things a father could say to his gay son in 1958, my father comes out with, ‘If that’s what you’re going to be, then don’t sneak in, because you’ll ruin your immortal soul if you do. do. ‘Damn! Who got that from their father in a hay field in 1958 America? He was a very deep asshole. Haggerty was 17 when his father died in 1961. “I’m still crying about it,” he said, “He’s the one who never leaves you.”
After graduating from college, Haggerty joined the Peace Corps in 1966 and was sent to Bhubaneswar in eastern India. “I loved India so much, but I was caught in a sexually compromising position, in a gay act, and I was expelled,” he recalls. “It was a very traumatic experience. It took me a few years to get over that trauma and understand, ‘Wait a minute. There’s nothing wrong with me. There’s something wrong with you.
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Following the Stonewall Riots of 1969, Haggerty came out publicly to family, friends and colleagues. He moved to Seattle from Missoula, Montana the following year to attend graduate school and it was there that he wrote and recorded lavender country, born out of his passionate activism with the gay liberation movement.“The Peace Corps experience shifted my priorities,” he says. “I was going to be a singer and an actor. After that experience, I turned my face towards socialist ideas, transforming society and being a radical.
Although he considered lavender country dead and forgotten for most of his life, his record turned out to help transform society. Today, a whole generation of queer country artists rightly consider Haggerty the grandfather of their scene. He collaborated with drag queen Trixie Mattel, and in 2019 Canadian country crooner and fashion icon Orville Peck invited Lavender Country to open his show in Seattle. The couple have since become friends. “I think Orville discovered lavender country even before the re-release, so it goes to show that you never know what effect you have,” says Haggerty. “Many people over the years have told me lavender country changed their life. When someone comes up to you yelling and says, ‘lavender country saved my life in 1978′, it doesn’t get any purer than that, does it? »
Of all the artists who have followed in Haggerty’s wake, he has special praise for rapper Lil Nas X. “I haven’t met him yet, but I hope so,” he says. “He’s my true love and I’ll tell you why: he’s uncompromising. He is unhindered. He’s not trying to be polite. He does the real raw truth and he really shoves it in the face. If I ever had the chance to do a show with him, I would die happily and go to hell the next day. It will never get better than that. »
With Pink Mulberry Now getting a wider release, Haggerty says he’s already planning a third. “I still have a lot of stuff in my pocket,” he says. “Probably half an album of songs ready to go.” While a copy of Lavender Country’s debut album is now enshrined in the library of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Haggerty says he doesn’t expect to ever be embraced by the powers that be.
“Corporate Nashville is responsible for country music’s redneck image and for creating a split between blacks and whites,” he says. “[But] Dolly, Willie Nelson or Garth Brooks are not rednecks. They don’t believe that shit. Corporate Nashville shaped that image and it’s crashing down on them right now. Blacks, transgenders, gays, lesbians and powerful women are kicking down the door and slamming the Nashville company for the racist and sexist bullshit they’ve inflicted on everyone.
Her decision all those years ago to dismiss that scene and remain a “screaming Marxist bitch” has now been fully vindicated. “Nashville society was never going to get me ahead,” Haggerty says proudly, “but I might end up having the last laugh after all.”
‘Blackberry Rose’ is now available