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Gay History: Lavender Country
Gay History: Lavender Country
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

Another Pacific Northwest first: Patrick Haggerty, well-known political activist, Gay liberationist, fabric artist, musician, and songwriter for the earliest openly Gay L.P, Lavender Country, was recently archived in the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame. Chris Dickenson, editor of the Journal of Country Music, took it upon herself to investigate Gay people in country music and describes Patrick as the lost pioneer of Gay country music.

Patrick Haggerty said, "I grew up on a farm in Dry Creek, Washington. My childhood was completely overwrought with farm responsibilities that prevented development of my musical talents, so my early, 1950s musical training was listening to KOMP radio that played country music, Grange Hall dance music, and lots of Yankovich polkas. Fortunately, my grade-school principal Mrs. Thomas, who played the violin, put together a classical orchestra in our small school and gave classical concerts. I played the trumpet but I am not the trumpet type; I preferred the violin.

"When I was 18, I started on the ukulele. Then a friend of mine bought me a tenor guitar so I could do rhythm to his guitar lead. He couldn't sing and I could, so I turned into a kind of folk singer. It was the beginning of the folk song and coffeehouse days, so we played them all.

"I went to Collage in Bellingham for a while, then joined the Peace Corps and got kicked out for being Gay. In 1970, I settled in Seattle and got heavily involved in politics and the "Gay Liberation Front," then a group called the "Shelter Half Coffee House" who were doing anti-war work. At events, I played and sang, and that's how I got into public performance and began writing Lavender Country. Then I got the idea of doing an album "Back in the Closet Again" was my first song for L.C.

"I wanted this to be a community thing. I could have hired all professional musicians but I didn't do that. I knew I was going to sacrifice musical competence and "professionalism," that it would have amateurish aspects and mistakes would be made, that the songs wouldn't be tightly rehearsed, out of sync with one another from time to time, that people wouldn't sing loud enough, that the levels on the mic wouldn't be set right. It was a technical nightmare with so many instruments and people, so I went out and found three professionals - Michael Carr, Eve Morris and Bob Hammerstein - who held it all together. Everyone really integrated themselves fabulously well into a total program.

"The album is very tight musically. I have an innate ability for a strong, simple melody line that would carry my message lyrically. The musicians created their own musical score around my melody and lyrics; I did not score the whole thing. We worked hard for a year or more, two or three times a week before we went to record. Gay Community Social Services produced it, and we sold 1,000 vinyl albums."

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