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Lavender Country singer on new life, new meaning for trailblazing gay country band

A black and white photo of an older man with white hair. He is wearing a cowboy hat.
Sarah Wainwright
"I Can't Shake the Stranger Out of You" is the lead single off Lavender Country's newest album, "Blackberry Rose." It's a re-recording of a song off its 1973 debut. Singer-songwriter Patrick Haggerty told KNKX's Vivian McCall what it means to him now, all these years later.
Updated: November 1, 2022 at 10:58 AM PDT
Patrick Haggerty of the gay country band Lavender Country has died, at 78. The band started in Seattle and Haggerty lived in Bremerton.

Lavender Country released its second album, Blackberry Rose, earlier this year, five decades after the first. Haggerty died Oct. 31 from complications due to a stroke.

KNKX’s Vivian McCall interviewed Haggerty earlier this year.

Seattle's Lavender Country put out a significant album in 1973: the first gay country album ever. The only problem was nobody heard it — and nobody wanted to hear it, either.

Songwriter Patrick Haggerty wasn't only singing about being gay. He wrote with a radical, Marxist edge and didn't care what people thought about that. His takes were a little too hot, even for other queers of the time. Legend has it that Seattle lesbian DJ Shan Ottley was banned from her station, KRAB, for playing his song "Cryin' These C--ksucking Tears" on the radio.

Haggerty told me that song marked him with a scarlet letter. Other gay people either thought it was "too much" or, worse, a joke. Straight people didn't get the chance to call it immoral.

So Haggerty left his Nashville dreams behind and continued on with life. Chafing at the attitude gay people shouldn't have children, he started a family in the 1970s. He has a son and daughter, who are both in their 40s now, and a husband of 35 years. Haggerty continued his activism, but doubted the band would be anything more than a footnote of a footnote or a record in a dusty bin.

But Lavender Country got rediscovered. The album was reissued, and the queers of my generation were ready for it this time. Honesty never fades, and this old album still feels so new.

Haggerty lives in Bremerton. He's 78 now. He realized if he wanted to make another album, he'd better do it.

That new album is called "Blackberry Rose," and its lead single is "I Can't Shake the Stranger Out of You" — a re-recording of a song from the band's first record, a song about intimacy ... and isolation. It's now also connected to the memory of a dear friend, which Haggerty told me as we talked about the album.

You can see Lavender Country in Seattle at Mirror Sound on April 16.

A warning to listeners: This story contains mentions of abuse.

Writer's note: I called Patrick after our conversation and asked if he was comfortable with me sharing that intimate conversation with you all. He said yes, that his friend Shawn Doyle was a close family friend and public about his experience with abuse, particularly in the last years of his life. He would be happy his story was out there, Haggerty told me.

Five people in lavender colored shirts are outside. There is a hedge behind them. They are smiling. Two men are wearing cowboy hats.
Sarah Wainwright
Patrick Haggerty, center, with members of Lavender Country.

Vivian McCall is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host. She previously spent eight years as a reporter in Chicago, where she wrote for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ public radio.