CMT Artists: Lavender Country

While Lavender Country were little known outside the Pacific Northwest and only released one self-distributed album, in their time they created a genuine cultural milestone — the first collection of openly gay-themed country songs. Lavender Country were the brainchild of Patrick Haggerty, who was born and raised in Dry Creek, a small rural community near Port Angeles, Washington, where his parents were tenant dairy farmers. While Haggerty’s family was always short on money (in part because he had nine siblings), when he was nine his father gave him a $25 guitar, and Patrick taught himself to play. Haggerty grew up listening to country music on the radio, and was particularly fond of Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Eddy Arnold; when he was a teenager and the folk revival of the late ’50s and early ’60s swept the nation, Haggerty began performing folk songs at coffeehouses and talent shows. From an early age, Haggerty knew he was gay and made little secret of it; his father, remarkably understanding given the time and place, told his son, “Don’t sneak…if you spend your life sneaking, it means you think you’re doing the wrong thing…so whoever you run around with, don’t sneak and be proud of it.” As a consequence, Haggerty struggled to be open with his homosexuality at a time when it was not accepted, and after graduating from college, he joined the Peace Corps in 1966, only to be kicked out when his sexuality became known (Haggerty had switched rooms at a dormitory in India when he admitted to his first roommate that he was attracted to him and found it too distracting).