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March 2005
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"Brokeback Mountain"

Way before there was the phenomenom of "Brokeback Mountain" there were ample gay images and stories in Country Music. Please check out my three-part series where I dig real deep into the subject.
"Brokeback Mountain"

A three-part series on the world of
Gay Country Music.

Part 1 is the historical journey tracing first some of the early gay references in country music, by straight artists. And then exploring the pioneering artists performing C&W songs, including interviews with Patrick Haggerty and Doug Stevens. Patrick founded the band Lavender Country, which produced the first openly gay country album, in 1973. And Doug Stevens & the Outband popularized the genre in the 90's.

Part 2 will flesh out the contributions of the more recent artists, from roughly the last ten years, including more interviews.

And there's a bonus show in between, that I'm calling "The Return of Big Bad Bruce: Homophobia in Country Music." That will explore those comedy and novelty songs, done by straight artists over the years, that have been making the most of gay stereotypes.

Playlist            (airdate March 28, 2005)
Doug Stevens & the Outband - Out In The Country (1993)
Vernon Dalhart - Lavender Cowboy (1939)
Paddy Roberts - Lavender Cowboy (1959)
Billy Briggs - The Sissy Song (1951)
Kelly Harrell - Beneath the Weeping Willow Tree (1926)
Monroe Brothers - Where Is My Sailor Boy? (1936)
Cowboy Jack Derrick - Truck Drivin' Man (1948)
Lavender Country - Come Out Singin' (1973)
Patrick Haggerty Interview (2005)
Lavender Country - Back In The Closet Again (1973)
Lavender Country - Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears (1973)
Lavender Country - Lavender Country (1973)
Peter Grudzien - White Trash Hillbilly Trick (1974)
Deadly Nightshade - Someone Down In Nashville (1975)
Robin Flower - More Than Friends (1979)
Blackberri - Please Help Me To Forget (1981)
Harry Wingfield - The Men's Room (1981)
Romulus - Love Is Just An Inch Away (1983)
kd lang - Bopalena (1984)
kd lang - I'm Down To My Last Cigarette (1988)
Romanovsky & Phillips - Musta Been Drunk (1986)
Glen Meadmore - I'll Teach You To Steal My Man (1988)
Two Nice Girls - I Spent My Last $10 On Birth Control and Beer (1989)
Jane Howard - Something About Her (1989)
Cowgirl Sweethearts - You All Got Me All Wrong (1994)
Doug Stevens & the Outband - From Christopher To Castro  (2000)
Doug Stevens Interview (2005)
Doug Stevens & the Outband - HIV Blues (1993)
Doug Stevens & the Outband - Hang Your Clothes In The Closet ('95)
Pearl River - Aunt Alice (2004)
Freddy Freeman - I'm Here, I'm Queer, & I'm Country (2004)

 

 

Read the script for the show...Plus there's more photos

 

Vernon Dalhart    Paddy Roberts 

Above, Vernon Dalhart in the late 20's sold over a million with his classic "The Prisoner's Song," but it was one of his very last recordings, in 1939, that got my attention. He wasn't the first to record "Lavender Cowboy," but his was the recording that was declared a "blue record" by the radio industry, banning it. In 1951 Paddy Roberts, over in the UK, added his homophobic version of the song to his "Strictly for Grown-Ups" 10" album.

Click for More on "Lavender Cowboy"

Below, Kelly Harrell wrote a whole repertoire of early American songs in the 20's, giving little thought to the gender for which his songs were intended, therefore leaving us several that today sound like male love songs. A similar comment can be made about the Monroe Brothers, which included Bill Monroe, known as the Father of Bluegrass Music. Their 1936 version of "Where Is My Sailor Boy" surely sounded much more innocent then. And, who knew what prompted Cowboy Jack Derrick to record "Truck Drivin' Man" in 1948, as it's man-to-man lyrics must have raised eyebrows at that time.

Kelly Harrell    Monroe Brothers    Cowboy Jack Derrick

"Lavender Country" -- the First Gay Country Album -- 1973

Patrick Haggerty & Lavender Country 

(click on LP below to see back cover)

     Click to see the back cover  Patrick Haggerty

Patrick Haggerty founded the band Lavender Country, and their album, "Lavender Country" was released in 1973 to become the first openly gay country album. Many years later, in 2000 Chris Dickinson, then Editor of "The Journal of Country Music, wrote a brilliant article called "Country Undetectable: Gay Artists in Country Music." To read the article, click on the magazine cover below. She also arranged for the "Lavender Country" album to be archived into the Country Music Hall of Fame, very well-deserved, I think.

CD reissue of "Lavender Country"    Lavender Country Revisited   Click to read Dickinson article

As a result of the article, Patrick Haggerty met Doug Stevens, of the Outband, and toured with the Outband from 2001 to 2003. On tour, he performed some of his new, original material as well as some of the songs that were originally recorded on "Lavender Country." After working with the Outband for two years, Patrick, Doug Stevens and the Outband members Mary Burnley, Mark Newstetter and Calvin Keaoola formed a new band, "Pearl River." But Patrick also ventured into sort of a side project, an act with Bobby Taylor called "The Landlord Tenant Act," and they have released two albums on their own so far, the one shown below and a Johnny Cash Tribute album.

The "Lavender Country" album was reissued in 1999 (above left) and in 2000 a 5-song CD was issued called "Lavender Country Revisited." That album (center, above) contained three songs from the original album with updated arrangements, plus two new songs written by Patrick.

Patrick Haggerty    Landlord Tenant Act    Bobby Taylor and Patrick Haggerty

I was corresponding with Gretchen Phillips this month (April 2005) and she made this great comment about the "Lavender Country" album, which she graciously allowed me to reprint here:  "I bought Lavender Country last August from Goldenrod at Michigan and it's the gay album I've been most excited about for years. Wow. I really feel like they were doing just what we were doing in Girls in the Nose:  fusing sex and politics and commentary on gay and dominant culture."

Peter Grudzien's rare LP "The Unicorn"    Blackberri album, 1981

Above, in 1974 Peter Grudzien released his very underground album, "The Unicorn," sort of a psychedelic folk country venture, definitely an acquired taste. It's very rare, and the first copy I've seen on eBay in years sold (on May 1, 2005) for $212, with very aggressive bidding by 13 different people. And another copy just sold (May 30, 2005) for $375, bid on by 16 different people. No, I don't have it, the CD reissue is fine for me.

And, above right, in 1981 folk pioneer Blackberri album contained a very country song, "Please Help Me To Forget."

   Deadly Nightshade   Deadly Nightshade

Though not out of the closet during their career (1971 - 1977) Deadly Nightshade (Helen Hooke, Pamela Brandt and Anne Bowen) was one of the first female bands to record on a major label. The albums are a mixture of styles, with several decent country offerings. Below, Robin Flower's music had a definite bluegrass influence, as heard on the title track, "More Than Friends," released in 1979. She's still making great music today, with her partner Libby McLaren. And, of course Canadian k.d. lang was considered lesbian long before she officially came out, in 1992. Her 1984 debut album, "A Truly Western Experience" included the frantic pronouns-intact "Bopalena." But her true artistry showed itself more on her later albums, like the gorgeous "Shadowland," in 1988.

Click for more on The Deadly Nightshade

Robin Flower  kd lang  kd lang

 

Harry C. S. Wingfield     Romulus

Above, for my internet listeners only, the country but FCC challenged songs presented by Harry C. S. Wingfield and an artist supposedly billing himself as Romulus. The latter's album was indeed x-rated and not for the timid, but Harry's offering was clever and charming. Hold you cursor over Harry's 45 pic cover to see the disc.

And here are two more tracks that only appear on the internet version of the show. First is the delightful Larry Havluck song "Musta Been Drunk," by Romanovsky & Phillips, from their 1986 album, "Trouble in Paradise." And there's no one quite like Glen Meadmore, whose style many call country punk, and also many of his songs are just not ready for radio. From his "Squaw Bread" album from 1988 came "I'll Teach You to Steal My Man." Pass cursor over Glen's albums to see more.

Romanovsky & Phillips

 

"Trouble in Paradise"  two more pics of Glen

Glen Meadmore's 1988 LP

   Two Nice Girls          Two Nice Girls  

The band Two Nice Girls was (center photo, clockwise from top left) Kathy Korniloff, Meg Hentges, Gretchen Phillips and Pam Berger, and their atypically country song "I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control and Beer" was a classic. I've compiled a little more info on them at this page

Below the 1989 cassette tape by Jane Howard, with her wonderful c&w love song "Something About Her."

Cowgirl Sweethearts, the cassette

Cowgirl Sweethearts

Cowgirl Sweethearts

 

Sadly, The Cowgirl Sweethearts only gave us one release, "The Cowgirl Collection," in 1994, a 7-song funfilled openly lesbian romp. Fortunately their act was captured in the 1995 short film "The Cowgirl Sweethearts: A Dyke-U-Mentary." Members were Bevo Buhr, Barbara Chusid, Anno O'Connor and Maia McNamara.

Doug Stevens & The Outband -- the Return of Out Gay C&W

Out In The Country (both covers)     When Love Is Right

Doug Stevens founded the Outband in 1992 and did a lot to popularize country music among gay listeners. The next year they released "Out In The Country," which was, to my mind, the first openly fully country album in 20 years, since Lavender Country. Below, Outband lineup circa 1995.

Outband, circa 1995

JD & Doug at the 2000 GLAMA Awards   Mark Weigle & Doug Stevens, 2000

I was in NYC for the GLAMA awards in 2000 and got to meet both
Doug Stevens and Mark Weigle, above

Doug & Patrick, Houston, May 2000   Doug & Patrick, Houston, May 2000

In May of 2000 Doug & Patrick visited Houston for a conference, and of course
Jimmy Carper and I had them on the radio, above, and below I had the honor
of posing between two of my musical heroes.

Patrick, JD, Doug  

  rainbow cowboy    rainbow cowboy

above, Doug, and below, Pearl River

Pearl River

Above is the new lineup for Pearl River, and below right the first PR album

From Christopher to Castro, 2000     Pearl River

Sadly, the music business is tough, and both Doug Stevens
and Patrick Haggerty no longer have websites
.

First Recording By
Doug Stevens & the Outband

This is a late addition to this page, as in October 2005 a friend gave me a cassette that was the band's first recording. It was a demo tape from 1992 used to send to people to interest them in booking the act, and contains just three tracks. "Out in the Country" is a slightly faster version than the one released the next year on their debut album, and "Girlfriends" has slightly different instrumentation than it had on their 1995 album. But the big treat for me was the unreleased song "Everytime He Sees Me." It was not on any of the band's albums, and Doug tells me it was the first song he wrote, so this is the one he's talking about in the interview. It was inspired by his lover leaving him after finding out that Doug tested positive for HIV. I thank Doug for allowing me to include a sound file on this page so folks can hear it.

There was a LOT more of interest in the interviews with Patrick Haggerty and Doug Stevens, that I could not possibly include in this show, but you can stream the entire interviews by clicking on the albums to the right: Patrick (63 min) or Doug (55 min)

Listen to Patrick Haggerty Interview in entirety     Listen to Doug Stevens Interview in entirety

And, after my Gay Country Series aired, I was contacted by a writer for the Chicago Free Press,
who was doing an article on the subject for their Pride issue....Click to see it.

Chicago Free Press

Freddy Freeman

Freddy Freeman

I first met Freddy Freeman several years ago, during one of my visits to NYC for the Outmusic Awards. He was just beginning, hadn't even released any CDs. I had the priviledge of seeing him play and sing at Casa Mannix...what I call the apartment of Ed Mannix, due to it almost being a music venue in itself. I was immediately struck by his talent. And in the following years he impressed me even more, with his organizational gumption, in founding Bearapalooza and setting up other music events. He knows how to foster the work of others and is both mentor and cheerleader. This spring he moved to Nashville, and I much look forward to what he will create there.

His song "I'm Here, I'm Queer, & I'm Country" seemed the perfect song to close out a show on the history of gay country music. Not only is it good musically, but it speaks to our growing presence in this genre, claiming our place. Hee Haw!

Freedy Freeman action figure