The Lens

The Song Remains the Same: Lavender Country’s 50 Years of LGBTQ Legacy

We create the future to exorcize the past. Demons chase us through the timeline of history as we scream them away, dance them back, and pound our own drum simply to survive.

This is the ballad of Patrick Haggerty, lead singer/songwriter of Lavender Country. They are widely credited as being the first openly (understatement alert!) gay country band, shocking the industry and fans alike in 1973.

But Haggerty’s rebellious side emerged even earlier than that. Unlike his fellow rural Washingtonians, young Patrick was encouraged to flex his fierceness by none other than his father. In a candid interview with the Seattle Times, Haggerty reminisces about the time he competed in a Port Angeles talent show. The category: teenage drag queen realness.

“We’re driving a ’47 Plymouth into town to go to the Catholic church, Pa Kettle is driving the car and I’m in the back seat putting on my lipstick and my nylons.”

Haggerty will forever admire his dad’s ability to throw convention in the wood chipper and stand up for what’s right. His bravery was not the norm, by a long shot.

“You can imagine in 1955 what hick fathers were doing with their queer kids — and it wasn’t pretty… It’s a really, really ugly story. Full of beatings and denigrations and insults and throwing their sons out of the house when they were 14.”

Luckily, the Haggerty men blazed a different trail.

“My father is responsible for the fact that I was able to write the world’s first gay country album,” declares Patrick.

Lavender Country’s signature brazen ballad, entitled Cryin’ These C***sucking Tears, became a rallying cry against heteronormativity, with lyrics like the following:

“How long you been thinking that your s*** ain’t stinking? Well, Mama’s done wiping your rear. You made it all right sir, but I won’t spend my life sir, crying these c*** sucking tears.”

There was nothing safe about Lavender Country’s debut five decades ago. It wasn’t an audition for fame, fortune or even civility. Instead, the album was a cacophony of f***-offery, liberating Haggerty from the shackles of playing by the rules.

Unfortunately, it also prevented him from finding a comfy niche in the music industry.

“I didn’t do music for many decades, because Lavender Country put a scarlet letter on my back and I was untouchable for a long time,” Haggerty explains. “So, I went and had another life.”

Fast forward to the queer-and-now.

The band is back together and rocking anew. They just released their fist record in half a century: Blackberry Rose. And its moral is as sweet as its title.

“I don’t have to make any compromises. I get to be the socialist loudmouth that I am and have a career in country music, too. And it doesn’t get better than that, man.”

Papa Haggerty would be proud. Play on, Patrick.

Photo: YouTube 

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Kevin Perry

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