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Pioneering PNW gay country music band is back

Lavender Country releases "Blackberry Rose." #k5evening

KITSAP, Wash. — This record release party on the Kitsap Peninsula was nearly 50 years in the making.

In 1973 Patrick Hagerty, a singer/songwriter living on Seattle's Capitol Hill, released a country album unlike any other.

"Lavender Country is the world's first out gay country album,” Hagerty said.

Back then, a gay country band wasn't just unusual.

“It was a revolutionary act!” Hagerty said.

Songs like "Gay Bar Blues" and "Back in the Closet Again" drew gay fans —but no commercial success.

"It sat for a long time because whoever heard of gay country in 1973 — and it was pretty outrageous anyway just to be gay country,” Hagerty said.

But the obscurity gave him a lot of artistic freedom.

"If they're not gonna listen to me no matter what I do then I’m going to say what I want to say and it's going to be out there and it's going to be proud and it's going to be upfront and it's not gonna have any holds barred."

Hagerty grew up in Port Angeles in a large family on a cow farm in the 1950's. When he wanted to perform in a dress at his catholic school talent show his dad didn't bat an eye — just drove him there and watched the show.

That acceptance helped Hagerty grow into who he was meant to be — an artist, an activist, and a "queer loudmouth socialist" — his words. He has his dad's advice — "don't sneak" — emblazoned on his tall lavender cowboy boots.

In 2014 someone found a Lavender Country album on eBay and put the title song on YouTube. It's a sweet, melodic tune that begins with Hagerty twanging, "There's nothing left but holes in your weary sexist roles, time to trade those old PJ's for a Goodwill negligee."

Hagerty got a call from a record label: they wanted to reissue the record. So Hagerty — now 78 —got the band back together, including original guitarist and keyboard player Robert Hammerstrom, and more recently added talent bassist Bobby Inocente.

They just released a new album, "Blackberry Rose." And a new generation of fans are coming to Lavender Country.

"It's all about the music," Inocente said. "It's the music that everyone enjoys. Straight people, gay people. Young and old, it's just a fun time."

And the frontman of the world's first out, gay country band says better late than never.

“The world had to get ready for Lavender Country, took about 45 years but eventually the world did catch up,” smiled Hagerty.

"Blackberry Rose" is available for order online at Don Giovanni Records.

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