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Remembering Patrick Haggerty

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Image courtesy of Pat Moriarty
Image courtesy of Pat Moriarty

Patrick Haggerty
Sept. 27, 1944—Oct. 31, 2022

Patrick Haggerty was one of my best friends.

I met him in 1999. Lavender Country, the first openly Gay country record, from 1973, was being re-released after being archived in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and through pure luck, I was hired to design the CD. I never found out how my name came up, but Patrick showed up at my house in Maple Leaf, and we met for the first time.

Together we dreamed up the humping cowboy hats to add to the preexisting lettering from the '73 record cover, which lacked art. We became friends, and when my family moved to Port Orchard, he and his husband JB helped us find our house through their real estate pal.

My son Jack was born in 2000. At three years old, he announced he was a musician, so Patrick taught him to sing and play guitar at age 5. Years later, Jack would become the band Lavender Country's guitar player, 50 years younger than the original members.

No one seemed to care about Lavender Country in 1973 or 1999, but in 2014, someone posted one of their songs on YouTube. It went viral, and the label Paradise of Bachelors re-released the record, this time on vinyl, just like the original. An award-winning documentary short followed, and Lavender Country took off again.

Jack joined the band at this time. Eventually he became their manager, promoter, and driver, since they had bad night vision and bad tech skills. Mastering Zoom was a mystery to Patrick, so Jack was the young brain they needed to relaunch the band. I designed their T-shirts.

Image courtesy of Pat Moriarty  

Eventually another record label, Don Giovanni, released their second album, Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows, in 2022, 49 years after the first. I designed the record cover. A Lavender Country ballet followed in California, with Patrick singing. A screenplay about Patrick's life as a Gay political activist and singer was written and is still in development.

A new generation of Gay country acts clamored to work with Patrick. My son Jack and Patrick were the only band members to fly, so there was a Texas Lavender Country, a Midwest version, a Canadian version, a California version, and an East Coast version, all with musicians who learned the songs and played for Patrick. Paisley Fields, Austin Lucas, Dani-Rae Clark, Andrew Sa, Trixie Mattel, and Orville Peck all shared the stage with Patrick Haggerty.

Patrick's legacy was finally recognized by the country music biz and the public.

Before 2014, Patrick was in the Peace Corps, he was in Cuba, he had kids, he was in politics, he sang old country songs at the local Kitsap nursing homes... His father accepted his gayness. He gave him permission to make that first record and always told Patrick to be proud: "Don't sneak".

Patrick always told me he was gonna do Lavender Country until he keeled over — and he was not kidding. Patrick did shows right up to his death. You can say he died with his boots on.

He suffered a stroke just as I was picking him up at the airport. Jack, JB, and Patrick were coming home from some shows in California. Medics got him off the plane and to a hospital in Renton. He was there for three weeks. We kept hoping he'd get better, but he was partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Eventually he was able to muster "Get me out of this hospital," and so we got him home for hospice.

JB, Jack, several other friends and relatives, and I took turns helping to make him comfortable and talking to him. I turned my head sideways, so I could look into his eyes and say my words while he was aware. He could not speak, but he was aware and could answer yes or no questions. Lavender Country's accordion player Claudette, who is a nurse, got him set up with morphine and antianxiety meds. He died at home after a week.

Patrick Haggerty was a touring musician, public speaker, and political activist until the very end — a real diehard. And a "screaming Marxist bitch," as he often called himself on stage, until the end. He was a mentor to so many people, and the next generation.

I will never forget my friend, what he did for me and my family, and for the world.