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Script for March 2005

rainbow cowboy The History of Gay C&W Music, Part 1 rainbow cowboy

Doug Stevens & the Outband - Out In The Country (1993)

This is Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and tonight I'm bringing you Part 1 of a special three-part series on Gay Country Music. This month and next I'll explore the history of gay and lesbian artists performing openly gay country songs, and also the early country songs by straight artists that made references to homosexuality. And on a special bonus show I'll cover country comedy or novelty songs that have gay subject matter. Those have been done almost always by straight artists, and many were borderline homophobic.

I opened the show with what I consider to be the first openly gay country song to achieve any kind of national attention, and it almost has an anthem feel to it. That was Doug Stevens & the Outband doing the title track from his debut album, "Out In The Country." That was from 1993 and ever since Doug has been one of the leading forces in that genre. We'll hear more from him later in the show, including some interview comments, but he didn't have the first openly gay country album. I'll tell you who did in a few minutes.

But first I want to give you some examples of some very early gay references in country music. And some of them I'm sure seemed much more gay then than they do now. In 1939 Vernon Dalhart recorded on the Bluebird label the song "Lavender Cowboy." Now, while he wasn't the first to record it, his version was one of the earliest, and it got the most attention because it was decided that the song appeared to refer to homosexuality, so radio considered it a "blue" song and banned it from the air. Even by today's crazed FCC standards I think you'll agree the song now appears fairly innocent.

Vernon Dalhart - Lavender Cowboy (1939)

Again that was "Lavender Cowboy" by Vernon Dalhart, from 1939, and his was just one of the many recordings of that song. Burl Ives had perhaps the best known version, but in 1959 the song turned decidedly homophobic in the hands of English singer Paddy Roberts.

Return of the Gay Caballero  nope, don't have a pic of "Lavender Cowboy" but this is close...

Paddy Roberts - Lavender Cowboy (1959)

Well, this time because the cowboy wasn't masculine enough they shot him. Also from the 50s was another condemnation, in the form of Billy Briggs' "The Sissy Song."

Billy Briggs - The Sissy Song (1951)

Billy Briggs from 1951, and obviously that was just a little bit of that song. To cover as much ground as possible I'm only going to be able to play clips of many of the songs. Now I want to quickly cover a couple of what I term accidentally gay songs, as they were sung by males but I believe intended to be sung by women and in those days society didn't seem to dwell on that. From 1926 Kelly Harrell and "Beneath the Weeping Willow Tree," followed by the bluegrass greats, the Monroe Brothers.

Kelly Harrell - Beneath the Weeping Willow Tree (1926)
Monroe Brothers - Where Is My Sailor Boy (1936)

The Monroe Brothers followed Kelly Harrell, with "Where Is My Sailor Boy," from 1936. And, before I leave the straight artists, I've got one more that I think is kind of interesting, because it's from quite a bit later, from 1948, and I wouldn't expect a man singing a woman's song then, but here's Cowboy Jack Derrick, with a bit of his "Truck Drivin' Man"

Cowboy Jack Derrick - Truck Drivin' Man (1948)

Patrick Haggerty

Okay, as I promised earlier I'm going to tell you about the first openly gay country album. It was called "Lavender Country," and was released in 1973. The album was made possible by the efforts of Gay Community Social Services of Seattle and only a thousand copies were pressed. Founder of the band Lavender Country was Patrick Haggerty. Before we talk with him I want to share a little of the first track from that album, called "Come Out Singin''"

Lavender Country - Come Out Singin' (1973)

How did the band Lavender Country get started?

I formed Lavender Country. I was a pretty rabid gay liberationist in the early 70s when Stonewall hit and I was quite involved in the Seattle movement at the time and I was singing a little bit then, at coffee houses and writing some songs, and I located the musicians for Lavender Country and we rehearsed, made the album and kept it an independent community project and managed to sell a thousand copies of the original 33 1/3 vinyl record.

Who else was in the band?

A man named Michael Carr, who is still a prominent active Jewish homosexual activist, and he lives in Philadelphia now with his long-time partner. A woman named Eve Morris who was an out lesbian at the time. Eve was from Milwaukee and I believe she's in Florida these days. She spent many years in Seattle and she is the female vocalist and the fiddle player. And there was a guy named Bob Hammerstromm who was not gay, but a lovely, lovely human being, a very good guitarist and I ran into him, and he was our lead guitar player. So that's how it all came together. Three of us were gay and Bob Hammerstromm was not gay.

And how did the album actually get produced?

We produced it ourselves, here in Seattle, we raised the money through community efforts to produce it, and an organization called Gay Community Social Services, which is a private 501-C-3 non-profit organization grew up at about that same time that Lavender Country was being produced…

From the back of the album it sounds like it was one of that organization's projects, but really from what you're saying it was closer knit than that

At the time it was, yes, there was a closer hook-up than it just being one of the projects. I believe Lavender Country may have been the first, if not, one of the first Gay Community Social Services projects, but there have been many over the years

And how many copies of the album were there?

A thousand.

And how long did the band, as it was, last?

Ah, more than two but probably less than three years, something like that. We ran up and down the coast doing gay prides here and there, in Washington and Oregon and California, and there were some gay symposiums that were a big deal at the time, you know, educational symposiums. We played a lot at those and at various gay community events. But of course gay country music was an absurd proposition at the time for particularly if you thought you were going to make a living at it

So, were you aware of any other openly gay acts performing at that time?

I was, but not in Seattle. "Lavender Jane Loves Women," Alix Dobkin…she…"Lavender Jane Loves Women" came out just months after "Lavender Country." "Lavender Country" was produced first but Lavender Jane Loves Women" was probably not even a year behind.

Right, that's what I was figuring. I've interviewed Alix…

Yes, long about the same time. Meg Christian was around about then and some other feminist oriented women were producing music then. There was a man whose name escapes me right now, but I would sure recognize it if I heard it who produced some gay music just a year or two after Lavender Country. It wasn't country music…[Steven Grossman?] Yes! Yes, that's exactly who I mean

His album came out in '74

Yeah, uh huh, I never met him, I would have liked to have met him, but I appreciated his album very much, it was a good album. So there was me and Steven Grossman and Meg Christian and Alix Dobkin were really pioneers of the same era

The sort of cartoonish drawing on the back of the album cover, is that supposed to be you?

No, it's not supposed to be me. It's not supposed to be me. Michael Carr did the drawing, Michael Carr the piano player

For those on the radio, it's just a rather western looking man in front of a door that looks like it's hammered shut

Uh huh, he's coming out of the closet is the idea on that, and he's got those farmer brown bib overalls, didn't he [right, looks like he has a purse] yeah, he does have a purse and a carbine rifle trimmed with lace, which is from one of my songs, "Back in the Closet Again." "Every purse was filled with mace, carbine rifles trimmed with lace."

Okay, I wanted to get to some of the songs while we're at it. Tell me about the song "Back in the Closet Again."

Not only was I doing the gay movement at the time but I was doing the left-oriented movement in general. I was working in a coffee house that was a war-resistors coffee house, for Viet Nam vets and Viet Nam soldiers, and that kind of thing. And I was hooked up with other radical organizations that weren't gay, and in those early days a lot of them had a lot of trouble embracing the gay movement, and many of them were opposed to the gay movement. And there was a big, big to do about whether homosexuals could be revolutionaries, and the struggles around that got pretty intense, frankly.

So this was really the other revolutionary folks wanting the gays back in the closet.

Right. That's what it was about

Lavender Country - Back In The Closet Again (1973)

Well, one song I have to be careful when I play or introduce is "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears"

Ah yes, that's the one. Again, "Crying' These Cocksucking Tears" is not even a song that's about sex. The song title is of course very controversial, but that's what "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears" is about. It's about the rigid sex roles that men were educated and trained to assume and how that role was oppressive to women and to us, and how it needed to go. It's a pretty overtly political song

I can air this part of the interview on the internet-only part of the show

Yeah, it's the song that everybody notices first because of the title, but again, it's not, not an explicitly sexual song at all

Lavender Country - Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears (1973) **

Back to the original group to when you performed live, what song got the best reaction from the crowd?

Well, the unmentionable song [okay, we know which one that is] was very popular, and it wasn't popular because of the title, although people did enjoy the title. It was popular because of what it was saying. "Come Out Singin'" and "Lavender Country" were also favorites. "Back in the Closet Again" was usually requested. You know, it's hard to pick, they were all loved.

How about the song "Lavender Country"?

"Lavender Country" was the last song that I wrote and turned out to be the title song of the album, and I particularly liked "Lavender Country" because it's about being liberated from sex roles. It's sort of…it's sort of the opposite of the "Crying These Cocksucking Tears" song, and it's written in a positive upbeat light, lyrical style as opposed to sardonic, sarcastic, biting, acrid style of the other song. It's an expose about sex roles. Interestingly, in the original "Lavender Country" there's not a verse about lesbians and in later editions of Lavender Country material, and whenever I sing the song now, there Is a verse about lesbians. And that was about…that was an interesting part of the early struggle too. That was about whether men, gay men in particular or men in general, had the right to write anything or say anything at all about lesbians, whether it was presumptuous…to presume that you could speak about the issue if you weren't a lesbian, particularly if you were a man. And I was intimidated out of, not overtly, but just by smelling the political content of the day. I was intimidated out of writing a verse about lesbians in the original "Lavender Country." But I subsequently got beat up by a lot of lesbians for a lot of reasons over the years and I came to feel not intimated, and also the sharpness of the issue was blunted a lot over time, and it didn't, it didn't matter so much what gender you were or what sexual orientation you were when you spoke or wrote about lesbianism. It mattered a whole lot more what you said.

Lavender Country - Lavender Country (1973)

So you sort of disappeared musically for a number of years…

I did. And the reason for that was…as I said, I wasn't a trained musician. Country was my genre. It was the genre that I loved. It was the only genre that I knew. And getting anywhere at the time in gay country was pretty much an absurd proposition. And I wasn't willing to….I was a gay activist. I wasn't willing to go back in the closet to do country, straight country. It was just a compromise I wasn't willing to make. And so there was nowhere for me to go, and so I went on, went on into the rest of my life.

Well, it turns out that Patrick Haggerty didn't disappear musically after all, and we'll pick up his story a little later.

This is a good time to invite you to check out my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the play list and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night from midnight to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.

On tonight's show I'm trying to be fairly liberal and inclusive as to what qualifies as country music, but then that genre has always covered a lot of territory. A year after Patrick Haggerty's "Lavender Country" album came out, a rather odd underground album was released. Most people were not, and probably still aren't sure what to make of Peter Grudzien's album called "The Unicorn." It's been called psychedelic folk country and was definitely a do-it-yourself project. Imagine music coming out of Greenwich Village and influenced by Johnny Cash and early Bob Dylan. Here's a bit of Peter Grudzien and his song "White Trash Hillbilly Trick."

Peter Grudzien - White Trash Hillbilly Trick (1974)

Some may notice that most of the artists featured on this first show are male. Well, that's what my research indicated. I found no openly lesbian country artists in the early years, and the earliest female group I can mention definitely was not out. In 1975 a trio of seasoned musicians, Helen Hooke, Pamela Brandt and Anne Bowen, formed the group The Deadly Nightshade. I've read that their live act demonstrated more of a country feel but their two albums, "Deadly Nightshade," and "F&W," standing for funky and western, were to my ears all over the map musically, but here's one of their more country flavored songs, "Someone Down in Nashville."

The Deadly Nightshade - Someone Down in Nashville (1975)

That was the group Deadly Nightshade. In 1979 Robin Flower released her debut album, but her lesbian music credentials go back ten years sooner, as she sang back up on the very first openly lesbian 45 rpm record, Maxine Feldman's "Angry Atthis." As a musician she is very well respected and is a master of just about any stringed instrument you can name. In recent years she's been half of a duo on and offstage with Libby McLaren, but here's the title track from Robin's first album, "More Than Friends."

Robin Flower - More Than Friends (1979)

When I featured Blackberri on one of my earlier Queer Music Heritage shows I was almost surprised to find a very country song on his album, because he's generally thought of as a folk artist. In this song he asks Tony to help him to forget.

Blackberri - Please Help Me To Forget (1981)

"Please Help Me To Forget" by Blackberri, from 1981.

The next two artists will only be heard on the internet version of this show, and you'll soon see why. Primarily a folk artist Harry Wingfield released a 45 rpm record in 1981, with one side of it being a song about rest room entrapment, called "The Men's Room."

Below, Harry Wingfield L.A. gig

Harry Wingfield - The Men's Room (1981)
Romulus - Love Is Just An Inch away (1983)

And after Harry Wingfield was the title track from a cassette recording issued in 1983 by an artist called, at least on the tape, Romulus. Besides the song "Love Is Just An Inch Away" the tape included graphic songs in a variety of styles, with country being the style most used. Last summer I did a special internet-only show, called "I'll Be FCC-ing You," and if you listen to that show you can hear in entirety several of the almost x-rated gay country songs that I can't include on this show.

k d lang came out of the closet in 1992, after years of trying for acceptance in the country market. Those years produced four acclaimed albums, and her first, from 1984, was called "A Truly Western Experience." On that album she did a cover version of a 50s rockabilly hit by Ronnie Self. It's called "Bopalena," and she kept those pronouns intact.

k d lang - Bopalena (1984)

Okay, you're right, I can't let that be the only song to represent her on this show. From the gorgeous "Shadowland" album from 1988, here's a bit of "I'm Down to My Last Cigarette."

k d lang - I'm Down to My Last Cigarette (1988)

In 1986 one of my favorite queer acts, Romanovsky & Phillips, added a very country song to their album called "Trouble In Paradise." It's the Larry Havluck song "Musta Been Drunk."

Romanovsky & Phillips - Musta Been Drunk (1986)

Okay, somewhere I've got to fit in Glen Meadmore, and his work again begs the question of just what qualifies as country music. I've got all five of his releases, spanning back to 1987 and I guess I'm comfortable calling his albums country punk. He obviously is not worried about airplay, as his material fits the titles of his releases, the last three being called "Boned," "Hot, Horny and Born Again," and "Cowboy Songs for Little Hustlers." Many of his songs are openly gay and openly graphic. I picked one from his "Squaw Bread" album from 1988, called "I'll Teach You To Steal My Man." It's verses are very repetitive and here's the one I can play on the air.

Glen Meadmore - I'll Teach You To Steal My Man (1988)

That was Glen Meadmore. And it would be hard to leave out this song by Two Nice Girls. Now, that's the name of their act, and there were four of them. This song was not at all typical of their sound but they had big success with it, and how could you miss with a lesbian song titled "I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control And Beer."

Two Nice Girls - I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control and Beer (1989)

Again, that was by Two Nice Girls, from their self-titled album from 1989.

Also from 1989 is a very obscure album by Jane Howard, called "Passage." I only have one song from the album, but it's a very nice openly lesbian country song called "Something About Her"

Jane Howard - Something About Her (1989)

At this point in the show there were several other acts I considered including, who were active in the late 80s or early 90s, and who were very popular at the women's music festivals, such as Ranch Romance and the Reel World String Band, or I could even play a very country song from the album "Country Blessed," by Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. But those recordings' lyrics were not openly lesbian, and if you've listened to my shows at all you know that I always prefer to give exposure to a lyrically gay or lesbian song.

For this next act, well, I really can't tell you much about them. I found their 1994 cassette in a gay bookstore, and there's no photo, but they were from Madison, Wisconsin. They were called the Cowgirl Sweethearts, and their album was "The Cowgirl Collection." It was filled with seven mostly out of the closet songs including this one, called "You All Got Me All Wrong."

Cowgirl Sweethearts - You All Got Me All Wrong (1994)

That was the Cowgirl Sweethearts.

Doug Stevens

Doug Stevens & the Outband - From Christopher to Castro (2000)

Most of the rest of the show will be devoted to one of the leading forces in gay country music, Doug Stevens, and that was part of his song from 2000, "From Christopher to Castro." I opened the show with the title track from the first album by Doug Stevens & the Outband, called "Out In The Country." And I told you that Doug didn't have the first openly gay country album, with that honor going to Patrick Haggerty and Lavender Country in 1973.

Well, to my mind, Doug Stevens had the second openly gay country album. And I was kind of surprised to realize that, as there was a twenty-year gap between those two recordings. Of all the other gay and lesbian artists I played, plus a few others I know who released albums between 1973 and 1993, well, I just don't consider them to be both openly gay and fully country albums. So I salute Doug for finally bringing gay country music out of the closet.

While growing up very country, deep in Mississippi, his music career went a different direction at first, and he pursued classical singing in New York City, which included European tours and acclaim, but testing positive for HIV in 1991 turned him around. His lover at the time left him because of it, resulting in a deep despair. I asked him about that time in his life.

My partner at the time, he was my second partner…this was in the late 80s, he and I both got tested for HIV, and he was negative and I was positive, and he left me because of it, and I went into a depression, and this was actually 1990, so there really wasn't a lot of hope for people with HIV back then. And, I got really depressed and classical music felt foreign to me. It started feeling foreign; it didn't feel like it was really…me. And so I stopped performing classical music, and even turned down some gigs

Doug Stevens & the Outband - HIV Blues (1993)

And I was really depressed and one day I was sitting in the Laundromat doing my clothes and I thought to myself I have to get out of this depression somehow. And for some reason I thought of an interview I had seen on TV with Tammy Wynette a long time ago, when I was a little boy, and she said that she wrote songs, or she implied that writing songs was like therapy for her. It helped her feel better. So I decided I would see what would happen if I tried to write a song. And I wrote a song, and it was a country song. I didn't intend for it to be a country song, it just came out that way. And it felt really good, made me feel a lot better, so I wrote another one and another one and another one and pretty soon I was feeling a lot better. And then I started going to some country western dances. This was 1991 now, in the fall, and I started going to some gay country western dances, at the clubs, and I realized there was no gay country band out there, so I thought I would form one. And so I formed the Outband. We made our first recording in 1993 and it was March when I think it was made and the guy that I was dating at that time, his name was Nick Delarosa, from Texas, and he suggested actually the name for the album. He said it should be called "Out In The Country," and I thought well I should write a song, "Out In The Country" too. So I wrote the title song at his suggestion.

The Outband released three albums during the 90s, their second, in 1995, was called "When Love Is Right." From it I asked Doug to tell me about the song "Hang Your Clothes In the Closet."

Well, you know, when Nick suggested "Out In The Country" as the name of the album, and I thought I need to write a song about this, I said "Nick, that was such a great idea, give me some more ideas for songs," and he said "Hang Your Clothes In The Closet and Wear Yourself With Pride"? And I thought to myself, that's too many words (laughs) but he kept after me, "when are you going to write that song? When are you going to write that song?" So finally you know I was one day in the subway, in New York, going somewhere and I pulled out my notebook and thought, "I'm going to write that song right now." So I did.

Doug Stevens & the Outband - Hang Your Clothes In The Closet (1995)

In 1998 he helped found LGCMA, the Lesbian & Gay Country Music Association, and that organization is working to provide networking and encouragement for LGBT country singers, songwriters, dancers, and basically anyone interested in the music. And what a great idea, a means of bringing together gay country artists and gay country fans, and the group also interacts with the gay rodeo, gay dance club and square dance club associations. Here's the plug, you can find out what artists are members at lgcma.com.

Now, there's some nice symmetry to the history I'm presenting of gay country music, because the pioneer, Patrick Haggerty, is now part of Doug Stevens' band. I asked Doug how he met Patrick.

Well, when I lived in New York, we were…my band was touring around and we played in St. Louis once for a gay pride event and a woman there, Chris Dickinson, she worked for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and she did a couple of articles about the band, with pictures, she was just very interested in the Outband and the whole phenomenon of gay country music. Of course that was 1996, before LGCMA got started. But of course in 1998 I was living in…actually I was living in Oakland then, across the bay from San Francisco. And one night Chris Dickinson called me and said that she was now the editor for the Journal of Country Music, for the Country Music Hall of Fame, and she wanted to do an article, an in-depth article about gay country musicians. And she said she wanted to interview me and she wondered if I knew any other gay country musicians, and we had just formed LGCMA. So…she was very interested in writing about LGCMA and so she did.

Basically the article was about, was mostly about me and Charlie Pacheo and David Alan Mors and Mark Weigle. But she also asked me during the interview if I had heard of an album called "Lavender Country," and I told her I had. I had always thought when I first formed the band that ours was the first gay country band but my drummer at the time, Richard Dworkin told me, no, we weren't the first, and he has an album called "Lavender Country," and which was from the early 70s and he played it for me. And he told me he didn't know if you know if Patrick was still around, or how to get a hold of him or anything. So, anyway, Chris asked me if I had heard, during that interview, she asked me if I had heard of Patrick Haggerty and I told her that I had, and she got hold of him, and she wrote a lot about him in that article. The article I would say, that most primarily of the article was about him, Patrick, and Lavender Country and the first album that they made and, the only album that they made, way back when.

And Chris had told me later on that she had found Patrick and had interviewed him and I might be interested in meeting him, and then I got a copy of the magazine. I read the article and I called her up and asked her to give me his contact information, and she did, and Patrick and I talked, and the next thing you know I was up in Seattle, where Patrick lives, helping him with his Lavender Country concert, and pretty soon after that I asked him to join the Outband, and he toured with us a bit and then we formed Pearl River

In 2003 the Outband decided to shift its style a little and also to change its name, to Pearl River. I asked Doug about that evolution.

We wanted to play for more mainstream audiences and you know, Outband, it's pretty obviously a gay band so we decided we were going to come up with a different name. We were not necessarily going to do different music, but we were going to have a different name, so that hopefully it would be easier for us to get gigs at mainstream clubs. So we had several possible names and we voted on them, and Pearl River won. And we decided at first, you know, that maybe we weren't going to do gender specific music. So I decided, okay, I won't do gender specific music either but then I started writing songs, and they were gender specific, so, that's what I do, I guess. So Pearl River, my songs, are gay but the other songs are non-gender specific, except Patrick's songs. Patrick's songs are always told from the position of a woman to a man, and of course Patrick is singing the woman's role, so I don't know what you would call that

And how is the sound different?

We decided to change our sound from a pop, kind of pop country sound to a more Americana sound, or closer to bluegrass. We got rid of the drums, so now we're a totally string band, and we worked very hard on our harmonies. It's much more old-timey country, or traditional country music, that kind of thing

Well, we've got to hear a little of one of the songs by Pearl River, and I think my favorite is one called "Aunt Alice." Here's Doug introducing it.

I have a song about my Aunt Alice, which is just about her, and at one point one of the phrases in the song is "she was a honky tonk angel with a pistol in her purse," and that really, that really summarizes Aunt Alice

Pearl River - Aunt Alice (2004)

Now, I've got one more song, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and to thank Patrick Haggerty and Doug Stevens for their interviews. It was really a treat for me to capture some of this important history and to share it with you. There was so much more of interest in both of their interviews that I could not possibly fit into this show, so I've uploaded them to my site, and that of course is at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.

I said at the start of the show that this was the first of three special shows on queer country music. My April edition will be heard, as you would expect, on the 4th Monday of the month, and will continue the history and feature many of the more recent gay & lesbian country songs and artists, and I've got some that have never been released. You'll hear artists like Jamie Anderson, David Alan Mors, Y'All, Mark Weigle, the Topp Twins, Jeff Miller, Lisa Koch, Mark Islam, Dena Kaye and of course the late great Sid Spencer. I've got a lot to fit in, including some more special interviews.

But in two weeks I'm slipping in an extra show that I'm calling "The Return of Big Bad Bruce: Homophobia in Country Music." This is where I explore all those comedy and novelty songs, done by straight artists, that have been making the most of gay stereotypes over the years.

To end this show I wanted a new song that has the feel of a queer country anthem, and while it's not been officially released, I think I've got it. I've admired the work of New York City artist Freddy Freeman for several years now, and he's also the founder of an annual music event called Bearapalooza, which this year is on April 15th in Seattle. So far this song has only been captured live, in fact it was recorded at the last Bearpalooza. Freddy has just moved to Nashville and I'm looking forward to the music he'll create there. I thank him for sending me this demo recording of a song which I think is a fitting end to a show on the history of gay country music. Here's Freddy Freeman with "I'm Here, I'm Queer, & I'm Country."

Freddy Freeman - I'm Here, I'm Queer, & I'm Country (2004, demo)

ridersriders

and, back when I still had time to write CD reviews,
I wrote the following one for the latest Outband album:

  

Doug Stevens & The Outband-"From Christopher To Castro"
Review by JD Doyle, 6/16/2000

Yee, Haw! If you like gay country music, with this CD put your boots on,
you've arrived. I've long been a fan of the music of Doug Stevens & The
Outband. His 1993 CD "Out In The Country" started me off. Here was finally
down-home country music with lyrics that were openly gay. From its title
track up to its last track were songs about the joy of being gay, of being in
love, of flirting, and dancing, and dealing with HIV, and fighting for our
rights.

The group's next CD, "When Love Is Right," came out in 1995, and continued
the journey, with songs of love lost and love found, adventures at the gas
station, more flirting, and leading up to one of my favorites, "Hang Your
Clothes In The Closet"?("and wear yourself with pride.") It included several
songs with a delightful Cajun flavor. Just plain good ol' country music, but
country music this time for us.

So to me it seemed like ages waiting for the new release. In a way, I think
it may be his strongest album yet. When asked which songs were my favorites,
I was kind of stumped. They are all so well done. I realized this while
playing the CD in my car. I played it all the time for two or three weeks
while driving around town, to and from work, whatever. As I went to work, or
ran errands, there would be a break in my listening. And I found that the
last song I heard stayed in my head, I kept thinking that tune for a while.
But I gradually realized that this was true with all the songs. No matter
which song I was listening to before stopping, it stayed in my head. They
were all strong enough to have that impact.

I still don't know which song is my favorite, but this wouldn't be a review
if I didn't talk specifics. The first track, "Red Headed Country Boy,"
immediately grabs you. Not only is it delightfully about meeting a hot
country man, but its two-step beat is so smooth I can just see couples out on
the dance floor reveling in its rhythm. "Far, Far West" starts out with a
mournful fiddle. It's a slower two-step that reflects its lyric search for
the right man. But "Los Dulces Mexicanos" picks up the pace, with its polka
or shuffle beat as he sings the praises, sometimes in Spanish, of a sweet
Hispanic man. And "From Christopher To Castro," the title song and another
strong two-step, has to be the anthem of the album, kind of a gay travelogue
taking pride in our culture from coast to coast. You may notice I make
special comments on the type of dance each song is. As a former member of a
gay c&w dance team, I'm conscious of whether this is music people will want
to dance to, and the album fits this bill throughout.

The next song, "Miracle In White," is special in several ways. First, it's a
beautiful waltz, and lyrically, Doug sings wistfully of maybe someday being
able to legally marry the man he loves. It features especially nice harmonies
on the chorus. "Moth To A Flame" is a slow two-step about one of those
consuming loves that sometimes you just can't help being caught up in. But
spirits pick up again with "Amor De Lejos (Long Distance Love)" as we
two-step to the story of a long distance romance that, this time, has a happy
ending. The next song is simply titled "Next." And while it's pure country,
it also gave me a more retro feeling?somehow I could picture it being sung
almost as a rock & roll song by the likes of Buddy Holly. But Buddy, at least
in 1958, would not be singing about standing up to the man in your life when
you're not treated right.

In "Ordinary Day" we get to dance close, in a gentle two-step praising the
simple joys of two people being in love, with those nice harmonies of the
band wrapping a bow around this song. And, now I'm back to "Yee, Haw!" The
CD's finale is "Cowboy's Sweetheart," the only song on the album Doug didn't
write or co-write. It's the Patsy Montana classic. Time for some trivia:
Patsy Montana was the first woman in country music to sell a million copies,
in 1936, with this song, which she wrote. Well, these days it's a perfect
song for a gay male country singer, and Doug makes it shine, as he also shows
off his yodeling on this one. It's one of those infectious songs that just
make you want to dance. This CD is a good time, put to music.

You can learn more about Doug Stevens, and hear clips of some of his songs,
by linking from the site of the Lesbian & Gay Country Music Association,
www.lgcma.com.