PNW’s pioneering gay country band is back
KITSAP, Washington — This record release party on the Kitsap Peninsula has lasted nearly 50 years.
In 1973, Patrick Hagerty, a singer-songwriter living on Capitol Hill in Seattle, released a country album like no other.
“Lavender Country is the world’s first gay country album,” Hagerty said.
At the time, a gay country band wasn’t just unusual.
“It was a revolutionary act!” Hagerty said.
Songs like “Gay Bar Blues” and “Back in the Closet Again” attracted gay fans, but no commercial success.
“It sat around for a long time because anyone heard of gay country in 1973 – and it was pretty outrageous anyway just to be a gay country,” Hagerty said.
But the darkness gave him great artistic freedom.
“If they’re not going to listen to me, no matter what I do, I’m going to say what I mean and it’s going to be out there and it’s going to be proud and it’s going to be outspoken and it’s not going to have any deductions prohibited.”
Hagerty grew up in Port Angeles in a large family on a cow farm in the 1950s. When he wanted to perform in a dress at his Catholic school’s talent show, his father didn’t bat an eyelid – he did. just drove there and watched the show.
This acceptance helped Hagerty become what he was meant to be – an artist, an activist and a “loudmouthed queer socialist” – his words. He has his father’s advice – “don’t sneak” – written on his high lavender cowboy boots.
In 2014, someone found a Lavender Country album on eBay and put the title track on YouTube. It’s a sweet, melodic tune that begins with Hagerty twang, “There are only holes left in your tired gender roles, time to trade in those old pajamas for a Goodwill negligee.”
Hagerty received a call from a record company: they wanted to reissue the record. So Hagerty – now 78 – assembled the band, including original guitarist and keyboardist Robert Hammerstrom, and most recently talented bassist Bobby Inocente.
They have just released a new album, “Blackberry Rose”. And a new generation of fans is coming to Lavender Country.
“It’s all about the music,” Inocente said. “It’s the music everyone loves. Straight people, gay people. Young and old, it’s just a fun time.”
And the leader of the world’s first gay country band says better late than never.
“The world had to prepare for Lavender Country, took about 45 years, but eventually the world caught up,” Hagerty smiles.
“Blackberry Rose” is available to order online from Don Giovanni Records.
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