When Patrick Haggerty made the first openly gay country album in 1973, it wasn’t exactly a good career move. “It was an absolutely radical act,” he says. “I wasn’t interested in a career in music. I was born to kick open the closet door.”
That album, the eponymously named Lavender Country, recorded by the band Haggerty founded with Michael Carr, Eve Morris, and Robert Hammerstrom, is now being reissued by the North Carolina–based Paradise of Bachelors, a label with a mission to highlight “under-recognized musics of the American vernacular.”
Musics don’t come much more under-recognized than gay country, and Lavender Country’s album is even more remarkable for its lyrical forthrightness. Songs such as “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears,” “Back in the Closet Again,” and “Come Out Singing” (sample lyric: “There’s milk and money flowing / When you’re blowing Gabriel’s horn”) were never likely to be played at the Grand Ole Opry, but they also weren’t camp attempts at the genre. Haggerty’s love of country music was absolutely sincere, as was his view that the songs offered a way to get what he called the “Information” — the shared experience of what it meant to be gay in the years after Stonewall — out to an audience that was starved of it.