Patrick Haggerty might not be a household name, but Lavender Country sure should be.
It's the name of the band led by Haggerty, an activist and known as the first out gay country singer. The gay-themed bootleg album, titled Lavender Country, was recorded in 1973. It was self-pressed and sold 1,000 LPs. Based in Seattle, Washington, the band was conposed of Haggerty, keyboardist Michael Carr, fiddler Eve Morris and guitarist Robert Hammerstromthe one straight member.
In 2014, Lavender Country made a triumphant return, thanks to Paradise of Bachelors reissuing it. The following year a short film was released called Cryin' These C*cksuckin' Tears telling the story of his life and career.
While at his last appearance in Chicago, Haggerty sat down over some Southern fried chicken to reminisce about his life.
Windy City Times: You are from Seattle?
Patrick Haggerty: Well, I grew up two ferry rides and a hundred miles from there. It was pretty isolated and smack on the Canadian border.
WCT: When did you come out of the closet?
PH: It was 1962, and I was out of high school. My parents were tenant dairy farmers. I worked a lot but other than that my childhood was idyllic. I had great parents, even though there were 10 of us and they were swamped.
I talk about my father in the show a lot. He died 50 years ago and was a saint. He never hit any of us. He learned as he went and didn't know what to do with me. He saw what he had on his hands at an early age and had me pegged at five years old. At that age he had me make a blonde wig out of twine to play with my sister.
WCT: Did your father ever hear any of the Lavender Country music?
PH: No; he died when I was 17. He saw exactly what I was, though. He knew I was a catastrophe at mechanics and wouldn't make it as a farmer. One time I hit a fence and blew up the tractor. His response was to go to town and spend his last $25 to buy me a guitar. [Haggerty cries and points to a guitar in the corner.] Here it is!
I discovered music with that guitar. I started singing Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. There would not have been a Lavender Country without my father.
WCT: How did Lavender Country start?
PH: We weren't stupid when we began. We knew we were dead in the water. I knew there was no way I would get into Nashville with Lavender Country. I had to choose between pursuing a career in country music or being a loud mouth radical socialist homosexual.
When I made Lavender Country, I knew there was no way to have a career in music. So this part of my life is unimaginable and exciting.
WCT: It must have been difficult for a while.
PH: It was hard for four decades! I didn't have an option. I had to set Lavender Country down and walk away. I thought it would die unnoticed and unsung.
WCT: What made the music come back?
PH: Somebody put my song "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears" on YouTube. I knew nothing about it. A music aficionado named Jeremy Cargill found the record on eBay and took it to a North Carolina label called Paradise of Bachelors.
I was singing songs to 85-year-olds at a nursing home. I get a call offering me a contract to reissue Lavender Country.
Then afterward, I get another call where a New York TV producer wants to make a documentary out of it.
There is now going to be a Hollywood movie director making a screenplay out of my life. Nobody gets what I am getting. This is so over the top. This is my fourth Midwest tour.
See that guy over there? He was the house guitarist at the Apollo. He's not gay, but just walked up to me asked to play on the tour. Everyone working with me onstage are fabulous musicians.
Brilliant people are wanting to work with me and not because of my ruby throated voice or musical expertise. They want to work with me because they realize Lavender Country is a movement. There are some political principals in Lavender Country. People want to be a part of it.
WCT: You turn 74 in September. What would you say to the little boy [who] put on wigs?
PH: I would say, "See? You knew you could do it. It was in there all along. You just had to wait awhile for the reward. Put your Baling Twine wig back on and go!"
Visit LavenderCountryMusic.com for more on the world's first gay country band's exploits .