In 1973, “Lavender Country” was the first openly gay album of country music. While the record’s initial audience was small, its creator, Patrick Haggerty, continued his music and activism in the ensuing years. In 2014, it was reissued, and he joined us to talk about how “Lavender Country” came to be. Now, with a possible tour in the works to play his songs for a receptive new audience for the first time, Mr. Haggerty gives us a nostalgic party playlist of the music that inspired him to become a recording industry pioneer.
Hello, everybody. My name is Patrick Haggerty. I’m going to introduce you to my dinner party soundtrack. I have selected a few songs that reflect who I was and where I was coming from when the seeds of Lavender Country were created.
Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces”
Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces.” Who else? You cannot be the world’s first queer country musician in 1973 and not have Pasty Cline all the way deep in your heart. Every self-respecting country queer knows that.
I believe I was milking cows when I first heard Patsy Cline sing that song. We had a radio in the barn. My heart just reached out to Patsy, falling to pieces. I just felt so sorry for her. I probably did cry in the milk.
“My Happiness,” Connie Francis
My next song isn’t really country, but it was what was in my heart when I was a teenager. “My Happiness,” by Connie Francis.
“My Happiness,” it’s really a pretty song, a happy song. It’s about when she’s going to get back together with her man and they’re going to be happy. They’ve been apart. When I’m on the road, missing my husband, this is the song that comes to mind.
I perform for senior citizens a lot. I do about a hundred shows a year. They love that song, they remember that song. It makes them happy.
Charley Pride, “I’ll Fly Away”
The third track I would use at my dinner party, I would use the Charley Pride version of “I’ll Fly Away.”
Charley Pride is a Black man who broke into Nashville way early. I’m sure took a lot of flack. He’s just a man I really respect and admire. I kinda feel like I have a bit of an idea what he had to go through.
“I’ll Fly Away” is upbeat, it’s spiritual without being preachy. It’s a song about a happy death. People don’t usually hook those two words together in the same sentence but we do understand that concept in our culture. “When I die, it’s Hallelujah by and by. I’ll fly away.”
Lavender Country, “Lavender Country”
If I had to pick one of my own songs for a dinner party, people would probably scream at me to sing [“Crying … Tears“] because that’s the one everybody wants to hear, but I think “Lavender Country” is more in the spirit of where I want to be now.
Lavender Country is a completely ideal place. You get to be who you want, get to dress however you want, get to love whoever you want. It’s queer heaven! But it’s not about who you are attracted to, it’s about who you don’t hate.