Interview: First Openly Gay Country Band 'Lavender Country'
Lavender Country is the name of a band and an album that came out in 1973. It rattled some conservative cages, and then for a long while it seemed to be erased from the history books. Patrick Haggerty is the singer/songwriter, he had help with production from the Gay Community Social Services of Seattle. "At the time that we made Lavender Country we knew very well what it was. We also knew that the audience that was going to hear it was going to be out (of the closet), or coming out, and that the rest of the world was going to reject gay country music," says Haggerty.
There was a lot leading up to the making of the music. Haggerty credits his parents, especially his dairy farmer father, for being supportive of his "sissy" ways. Watch a StoryCorps video about it below:
Haggerty went on to do well in college and joined the Peace Corps, though he was kicked out for being gay. He says that, combined with the Stonewall riots in 1969, led to the radical shift in his way of thinking. "I changed view of who I was from a petty bourgeoisie academic aspirant to a radical Marxist Leninist organizer. The repression of human sexuality starts with women being seen as property ... I came to understand all that and said f--- this."
Like its intended purpose was for - the album has gone on into modern times to be used as a tool for social change. The album was re-released by a label in North Carolina in 2014. That state notoriously passed a law last year banning transgender people from using the bathroom for the gender they identify as, which thrust the state into the national spotlight for what many saw as discriminatory legislation. Haggerty went on to headline Hopscotch Music Festival in N.C. He says organizers got in touch with him after the bill passed. "They wanted to use Lavender Country for battle ... to fight the Governor about this bill."
In part two of our conversation, Haggerty explains why he thinks Lavender Country has finally come to a period in time that it is largely accepted by a more mainstream audience. He's been playing the music again over the past few years, and after spending a lifetime in activist causes and social work, he says there has been a definite increase in interest. A documentary about him was an award winner in last year's SXSW festival for instance. "The gay community may love Lavender Country but they don't have the power to put it into prominence - straight white men in the music industry have that power ... Straight white men put Lavender Country on the map."
Lavender Country plays Off Broadway in St. Louis on Friday May 26th. For more info, click here.