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Website Version:
Lesson, Part 1, 1926 - 1977, below
Lesson, Part 2, 1973 - 1985
Recommended Books, and Notes

Lesson, Part 1:
1926 - 1977
Audio Version
Song List: Part 1 (59:16)
Merrit Brunies & His Friar's Inn Orchestra -
     Masculine Women, Feminine Men (1926)
Ma Rainey - Prove It On Me Blues (1928)
Bessie Jackson (Lucille Bogan) -
      B.D. Woman's Blues (1935)
Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon - My Daddy Rocks
     Me With One Steady Roll (1929)
Bing Crosby - Ain't No Sweet Man Worth
     the Salt of My Tears (1928)
Douglas Byng & Lance Lister - Cabaret Boys (1928)
Jean Malin - I'd Rather Be Spanish
     Than Manish (1931)
Bruz Fletcher - She's My Most Intimate Friend (1937)
Noel Coward - Green Carnation (1933)
Rae Bourbon - Let Me Tell You About My
      Operation (1956)
Jose Sarria - A Good Man Is Hard To Find (1962)
Chesterfield Cigarettes commercial (1950s)
Byrd E Bath - Homer the Happy Little Homo (1963)
Teddy & Darrel - Strangers In The Night (1966)
Lisa Ben - Frankie & Johnny (1960)

Troy Walker - Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe (1964)
Jackie Shane - Any Other Way (1963)
Billy Strayhorn - Lush Life (1964)
Frances Faye - Night And Day (1959)
Minette - LBJ, Don't Take My Man Away (1968)
Zebedy Colt - The Man I Love (1970)
Love Is A Drag - My Man (1962)
Mad About the Boy - Mad About the Boy (mid-60s)
Maxine Feldman - Angry Atthis (1972)
Madeline Davis - Stonewall Nation (1972)
Lavender Country - Back in the Closet Again (1973)
Doug Stevens & the Outband - Out in the
      Country (1993)
The Faggot - Women With Women,
      Men With Men (1973)
Let My People Come - I'm Gay (1974)
Chris Robison - Lookin' For A Boy Tonight (1973)
Steven Grossman - Out (1974)
Valentino - I Was Born This Way (1975)
Carl Bean - I Was Born This Way (1977)

Click on the Artist Name for website
on them, if one is available


Click to hear the entire song  
 And click for more information on this song.

Merrit Brunies & His Friar's Inn Orchestra - Masculine Women, Feminine Men (1926)

The song is "Masculine Women Feminine Men" and is by Merritt Brunies & His Friar's Inn Orchestra.
That version is from the UK and the song was very popular in the late 1920's. It is one of 16 recordings I know of that song. And as far as I know that song was not done by gay or lesbian artists, and back then the "B" and especially the "T" of LGBT were not even talked about.

For this show, I'll be keeping almost exclusively to artists who actually were gay, lesbian, bi or
transgender, and I guess I should pause a moment and acknowledge that I talk about queer music
like everyone knows what that means. For my definition, it's music that speaks openly about the
LGBT experience. If a song is "lyrically gay," it need not be by an LGBT artist to be considered here.


To me the obvious place to start is 1926 and the Blues, and the obvious song is by the Mother of the Blues,
Ma Rainey. It's the "Prove It On Me Blues" and is a Blues classic and often recorded. Listen for my favorite line in the song, "I went out last night with a gang of my friends, they must have been women, cause I don't like no men."

Ma Rainey - Prove It On Me Blues (1928)  
Bessie Jackson - B.D. Woman's Blues (1935)  

   Often considered the "Mother of the Blues"

   Eric Garber essay on black gay/lesbian culture

   For both artists see QMH shows for June 2004 and Oct 2007

Also recorded under the name Lucille Bogan

She is known for recording some very raunchy blues records, including her notorious "Shave 'Em Dry."

The photo at the
left appears to be
the Only one of
Bessie Jackson,
per google
image searches


Blues Artist Ma Rainey



Blues Artists Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon and Gladys Bentley

Not included musically in this lesson, Gladys Bentley
was a big butch blues singer, and a star in 1920's
Harlem. Click Here for a video and much more.


I went from Ma Rainey into one of the best known
songs by Bessie Jackson, who also recorded
under the name Lucille Bogan. In 1935 she
released "B.D. Women Blues" and the B.D. stood
for Bull Dykes or more colloquially Bull Daggers.
Time constraints prevent me from including a
number of other artists, like Bessie Smith and
Gladys Bentley.



And students may want to ask themselves, why was
it for the most part only the women who were so
musically outspoken? There is one male blues artist
I want to mention, Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon, who
often sang his songs as a female impersonator,
which probably made it easier for him in 1929 to
sing "My Daddy Rocks Me With One Steady Roll."

Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon - My Daddy Rocks Me With One Steady Roll (1929)  

See June 2004 and Oct 2007 QMH Shows.

Click for More Information

Early Blues was pretty much an anything-goes medium. Why do you think was it for the most part only the women who were so musically outspoken about same-sex matters?

Marked by the "Q" symbol, this is the first of the "study questions" I inserted into the lesson, designed to
encourage research and analysis, and perhaps class discussion. The "answers" are not given, leaving
the students to provide their own.

Bing Crosby - Ain't No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears (1928)

See QMH show for June 2004       

Click for More Information on "Cross Vocals"

It is probably incredible to believe that in 1928 the
very heterosexual Bing Crosby recorded the song
"Ain't No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears."
And that's the only example I have time to give of
"cross-vocals." These are songs intended to be
sung by a woman but are instead sung by a man,
keeping those pronouns intact. They sound pretty
gay now, but are only gay in hindsight. Here's the
explanation. In the late 20's and early 30's music
publishers had a stranglehold on the rights to their
catalogs. Singers could not change a word, period,
so it was not uncommon for a man to seemingly
sing a song to a man, or a woman to a woman.

The public knew of the restrictions on singers and did not really pay attention to any gay connotations. That just wasn't in their consciousness. But today
we do, which make these a lot of fun.

Oh, take a mental note for the audio version of this show. I'm going to play many pairs of songs, where I'll break out of one and go to the other. This may not always be a smooth transition, as gee, I chose these pairings for their history and not music compatibility.

Bing Crosby's "Gay" Recordings

Bonus Song: Bing Crosby - Gay Love (1929) 

Douglas Byng & Lance Lister - Cabaret Boys (1928)

Click for More Information
Click for a 1932 video of Byng singing in drag

Recommended Autobiography: "As You Were, Reminiscences by Douglas Byng," (1970)

Douglas Byng & Lance Lister - Cabaret Boys (1928)

From the UK that was Douglas Byng and Lance
Lister with their 1928 song "Cabaret Boys," which
is the perfect introduction to the next topic. In the
late 20's and early 30's there was a phenomenon
known now as The Pansy Craze. This was when
openly gay performers experienced a surge in
popularity in the nightclubs of the country's major
I'm going to give you short clips of two of
the most popular of these performers. First,
Jean Malin sings "I'd Rather Be Spanish Than Manish."

And then Bruz Fletcher gets catty with "She's My
Most Intimate Friend," from 1937. And the history
question for this time period would be to explain
what cultural forces happened to open this brief
window of popularity, and then what closed that
window. Again, I wish I had time to flesh out the
personalities of these artists a bit, but my website
can do that for you. Jean Malin and Bruz Fletcher.


   Pansy Craze artists Jean Malin and Bruz Fletcher


Jean Malin - I'd Rather Be Spanish Than Manish (1931)  

Click for More Information on Jean Malin

Bruz Fletcher - She's My Most Intimate Friend (1937)  

Click for More Information on Bruz Fletcher

See QMH show on The Pansy Craze, for May 2010


   In the late 20s and early 30s there was a phenomenon known now as The Pansy Craze.
   This was when openly gay performers experienced a surge in popularity in the
   nightclubs of the country's major cities. Explain what cultural forces happened to open
   this brief window of popularity, and then what closed that window.
Click Here.


Recommended Book: "Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890 - 1940," by George Chauncey, (1995). A number of chapters cover the time period of what is now known as the Pansy Craze.

Recommended Biography: "Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped & A Riotous Vamp" by Tyler Alpern (2010)



Noel Coward - Green Carnation (1933)  

See QMH shows for July 2000 and June 2004

The only clip I know where Coward sings the
song himself is only 48 seconds long, so I added
at the end of it a full version from 1967 by
Edward Earle & the Satisfactions

And I threw in a bit of Noel Coward in that set.
And while I do not consider him as a Pansy Craze
artist, he wrote the song "Green Carnation" for his
1933 musical "Bittersweet." In it fashionable gay
men in England in the 1890s could be identified
by their green carnations.

Recommended Biographies: "Noel & Cole:
The Sophisticates," by Stephen Citron, (1992);
"Genius & Lust: The Creative and Sexual Lives of
Cole Porter and Noel Coward," by Joseph Morella
& George Mazzei, (1995); and "My Life with
Noel Coward," by Graham Payn (1994). Payn was Coward's long-time partner.

Rae Bourbon - Let Me Tell You About My Operation (1956)

And this is a good place to slip in the sort of
recitation singing style of Ray Bourbon. He was our
culture's most prolific female impersonator, with
recordings spanning from the 30s through the 60s.
He died in prison in Texas in 1971, but that's a whole
other very colorful story. Let me give you a history
reference point. In 1952 Christine Jorgensen had her
famous sex-change operation, so this was still in the
news. So, around 1956 Ray Boubon changed the
spelling of his first name from R-a-y to R-a-e and
released an album called "Let Me Tell You About
My Operation," in which he played to the hilt his sex
change, which was all hype, never happened. I did
tell you he was colorful. Here's a bit of the title track.

See QMH show for May 2010
Click for Much More Information on Ray Bourbon

Also see the Female Impersonation
Section of my site for more Info

Jose Sarria - A Good Man Is Hard To Find (1962)

That was Jose Sarria, and I think he's one of our history's heroes.
Along with a long performing career in drag in San Francisco,
mainly at a club called The Black Cat, he was also political and
community-minded. He ran, although unsuccessfully, for the
Board of Supervisors, in 1961, which was twelve years before
Harvey Milk first ran, in 1973. And he also founded the Imperial
Court system, and was its first Empress. That system is still going strong today, with chapters all over North America, and their
fundraising efforts over the years for gay & lesbian charities have been enormous.

See QMH show for Oct 2000

Jose Sarria Interview: Nov 2012
Click for More Information

Recommended Autobiography:
"The Empress Is A Man," by Jose Sarria,
with M. Gorman (1998)

There was a noticeable gap in recordings by openly gay & lesbian artists around this time.
Where were the openly gay & lesbian artists during the 1940s and 1950s? Did they just stay
in the closet during World War II and the Joseph McCarthy years? Examples of closeted
artists:  Liberace, Tab Hunter, Johnnie Ray, Kaye Ballard, Johnny Mathis, etc.

I have examples of straight women singers like Nan Blakstone and Ruth Wallis doing relatively friendly
gay novelty songs, and then there's this not so friendly parody commercial, from I believe the 50s.

Chesterfield Cigarettes commercial (1950s)  
Byrd E Bath - Homer the Happy Little Homo (1963)         

And this is a good time to mention one of our mysteries. In the early 1960s a record label called Camp Records released two albums and a dozen 45s, pretty much exemplifying camp humor, with all of its mincing stereotypes. They were very coy on the album jackets as to who the singers really were, either, they said, as an attempt at protecting them or perhaps, I think, hyping the product. Who knows? And who knows who were really behind the label. All the singers' names were obviously made up, like B. Bubba, Sandy Beech, Max Minty & the Gay Blades, and this one, by Byrd E Bath. It's called "Homer the Happy Little Homo."

 Click for Much More Information on the Camp Records Label



Teddy & Darrel - Strangers In The Night (1966)  

I followed "Homer the Happy Little Homo" with one
not so happy, or in this case, not so gay friendly.
In 1966 Teddy & Darrel released an LP called
"These Are the Hits, You Silly Savages." And the
super-stereotypical limp-voiced "Strangers In The
Night" was the 45 from that album. The story I
heard on this one is that the album was an effort
to track homosexuals. Here's the plan, you

release an album, and track the sales of it to see
see where those creatures live. The record label
was owned by Mike Curb, the then future mega
successful record producer and future very
conservative lieutenant governor of California.
The plan didn't work because record sales were
just too spread out. I'd love for someone to dig
into this rumor and let me know if it's the real story.

See QMH show for September 2002



Lisa Ben - Frankie & Johnny (1960)  

In the late 1940s Lisa Ben was known in her Los Angeles community as a newsletter publisher and entertainer at
parties. For the newsletter part, this was historic. In 1947 on
her own she wrote and published the newsletter Vice Versa,
which was the very first lesbian publication, or gay
publication, for that matter. In fact the name she used,
Lisa Ben, was an anagram for…have you guessed already?
Yes, lesbian. In 1960 the organization Daughters of Bilitis
sponsored the release of a 45 rpm record by her. She was
known for her parodies, and this one was of the old standard,
"Frankie & Johnny."

Troy Walker - Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe (1964)

Lisa Ben's song was likely never intended to do
much commercially, but this one was and
homophobia stopped it cold. In 1964 a nightclub
singer in L.A. named Troy Walker released his first
album, "Troy Walker Live," which obviously
captured elements of his shows. Even though he
was a very flamboyant performer, one song worked

well live, but not on vinyl, as distributors sent the
album back, big time. They felt their customers
were just not ready for a song with a man singing
to a man, as in Troy's version of a song made
popular by Judy Garland, "Happiness Is a Thing
Called Joe."

Jackie Shane - Any Other Way (1963)

Homophobia didn't seem to bother an American artist named Jackie Shane much, but then he was
performing mainly in the lounge circuit in Toronto. Crowds came for his silky smooth voice as much as
his flamboyant effeminate stage persona. And he got a hit record along the way, at least in Canada
where reached number 2 on the charts in 1963. His songs lyrics say "tell her that I'm happy, tell her
that I'm gay, tell her that I wouldn't have it, Any Other Way."

                          Click for More Information

Billy Strayhorn - Lush Life (1964)

A jazz great is definitely Billy Strayhorn, who was a songwriting and arranging genius, and who was a big reason for the success of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. That orchestra first performed Billy's classic song "Lush Life" at Carnegie Hall in 1948, and countless people have recorded the song since, but I want you to hear it by Billy Strayhorn himself, in a 1964 recording.

Frances Faye - Night And Day (1959)  

Yes, jazz artist Frances Faye was gay gay gay, as you could hear in the song "Night and Day," from her
1959 album "Caught in the Act." She was in fact fairly open about her sexuality, especially given the times
in which she was most popular, from the 40s through the 60s.

See QMH show for Feb 2003
Click for More Information on Frances Faye

Recommended Biography: "Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn," by David Hajdu (1996)

Minette - LBJ, Don't Take My Man Away (1968)

I want to slip in this next artist, not because she
was ever accused of being a good singer, but to my
mind it was pretty radical for a female impersonator
to release an album in 1968 that was not comprised
of comedy routines or cabaret standards. The artist
was Minette, which was her real last name, and the
songs on her album were all written by her and

were very topical. Again, this was 1968 and all over the news was the hippie movement,
psychedelic drugs and the Vietnam war, and
she dealt with all those subjects. So I picked
the only queer song you'll ever hear about
Lyndon Johnson. It's called "LBJ, Don't
Take My Man Away."


Zebedy Colt - The Man I Love (1970) 
Love Is A Drag - My Man (1962) 

Mad About the Boy - Mad About the Boy (mid-60s)

And you may ask, surely there must have been gay cabaret in these years, and you'd be right, and I've three albums in mind, none of which were very commercially done, but all were blatantly man on an lyrics. So I've put them in a mini-medley. First
is Zebedy Colt from his 1970 album "I'll Sing For You," and then there are two tracks from albums where the singers were not identified. One was called "Love Is A Drag," from 1962, and you need to see the cover of that one. It has two guys in the shadows, and says on the front "For Adult Listeners Only," as if the very act of singing even those tame lyrics to another man made it only for adults. It gets better. On the back the LP jacket goes on about how brave the singer was, but then does not name him. And the other nameless singer was on the album "Mad About the Boy," from the mid-60s. That was done by that Camp Records label I played for you earlier. The songs are "The Man I Love," "My Man," and "Mad About the Boy."

Click for More Info on Zebedy Colt
Click for More on "Love Is A Drag"
Click for More on "Mad About the Boy"

   Maxine Feldman and Madeline Davis

Maxine Feldman - Angry Atthis (1972)  
Madeline Davis - Stonewall Nation (1972)

We're up to 1972 now, and almost up to the
Women's Music Movement, but not quite. That
really didn't start until 1974. In 1972 we saw the
release of two 45 rpm records and I consider
one the first openly lesbian 45 and the other the
first gay liberation 45. The openly lesbian one
was by Maxine Feldman, and she actually wrote
it in early 1969, before Stonewall, though it did
not get released until 1972. It was called "Angry
Atthis." In an interview she told me Atthis was one
of Sappho's lovers and also she was doing a word
play, and was also saying she was "angry at this."

Click to Hear QMH Maxine Feldman Interview
Click to Hear QMH Madeline Davis Interview

After Maxine Feldman was Madeline Davis, and her
song, written in 1971 was called "Stonewall Nation."
It was written after she participated in her first gay
march in Albany NY. And she got to sing it at her
second gay pride march, and for years she sang it
at many pride venues. She wasn't just singing
during those years. She was one of the early
members of the Mattachine Society of the Niagara
Frontier, and was president of that chapter in 1972.
One of her biggest accomplishments was in 1972
when she was elected as the first openly lesbian
delegate to a major national political convention.
It was of course the Democratic convention that
nominated McGovern, and Jim Foster from San
Francisco that same year was first gay male
delegate. She has other educational and literary
accomplishments but I'll let you find those on my

The song by Madeline Davis is the earliest one I know of about the Stonewall Riots. But
Stonewall has inspired many songwriters and artists over the years. An interesting question
is how have the attitudes about Stonewall changed over time in songs about it? A collection of all the major songs can be heard on a special show I did called "Songs About Stonewall."

Very Recommended Book: "Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community,"
by Elizabeth L. Kennedy and Madeline Davis, (1993). A Lambda Award winning study of the Buffalo
lesbian community from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s.

Lavender Country - Back in the Closet Again (1973)  
Doug Stevens & the Outband - Out in the Country (1993)

I jumped way ahead for that one, but it was to make a point. "Lavender Country" was the first full-length
openly gay country album, in 1973, and it took until 1993, twenty years later, for the second, "Out in the
Country," by Doug Stevens & the Outband. A twenty-year gap. And I do believe the gap continues.

Click to Hear Interviews with Patrick Haggerty and Doug Stevens

"Lavender Country" was the first gay country album, and it took 20 years until the second.
Why there was this gap in artists doing openly gay country music. And why has the field of
country music been seemingly more prone to produce homophobic novelty songs, and
how has that changed over the years? See QMH for April 2005


My next category is musicals, and 1973 saw the first openly gay one. I believe you would consider a musical named "The Faggot" as openly gay. Characters in the show included Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and Catherine the Great, so I assume the plot was a bit catch-as-catch can, but it started out queer from the first song, "Women With Women, Men With Men."

The Faggot - Women With Women, Men With Men (1973)  
Let My People Come - I'm Gay (1974)  

Attracting a lot more attention the next year, 1974, was the hit show "Let My People Come." Now, it was not at all a quote unquote "gay musical." It was a sexual musical, including all the bases, and it included a gay song and a lesbian one. From the cast you heard Marty Duffy and Joe Jones sing "I'm Gay."


See my Gay Musicals Section,   Shows for Aug 2003 and Sep 2003,   And Faggot & Let My People Come

    How have the depictions of gay and lesbian people changed in musicals since 1973?

Recommended Book: "Something for the Boys: Musical Theatre and Gay Culture," by
John M. Clum, (2001). Why do gay men love musical theatre? This book explores that.



   Chris Robison and Steven Grossman

The year 1973 also brought one of the first openly gay rock albums. The act was called Chris Robison and his Many Hand Band, and while it contained several very gay songs, the most gay was "Lookin' For A Boy Tonight."

Chris Robison - Lookin' For A Boy Tonight (1973)           Click to Hear Chris Robison Interview

And up next is some history. In 1974 Steven Grossman had the distinction of being the first artist to have a lyrically gay album released by a major label. The label was Mercury and the album was "Caravan Tonight," and the most known song from it is called "Out." I'm sharing with you the whole song, as you really need to hear how it builds to its end. Steven Grossman, and "Out."

Steven Grossman - Out (1974)            Steven Grossman Tribute Section

This is the end of the Audio Segment, Part 1, of Queer Music History 101. You'll have to listen to Part 2 to
hear about the Women's Music Movement, Disco, Glam Rock, Chorus music, Folk music and much more.
Ending this part is a pair of historic dance records. Now, you don't normally think of Motown Records
and gay recordings in the same breath, but there's reason to. And the result is, if you will, a gay liberation
disco song. There's no confusing the song's lyrics. They include the lines "I'm happy, I'm carefree and
I'm gay, yes, I'm gay, t'aint no fault, tis a fact I was born this way."

Valentino - I Was Born This Way (1975)  
Carl Bean - I Was Born This Way (1977)

Here's the story, Bunny Jones, a straight business
woman and music world wannabee, owned several
beauty salons, knew scads of gay people, and was
inspired to write the song "I Was Born This Way."
She got a singer named Charles Harris to record it,
changed his name to Valentino, and got Motown to
release it. This was 1975. Not much happened,
mainly because Motown did little to promote it.
They changed their minds a couple years later,
and got Carl Bean to do a more updated version.
Bean later founded the Unity Fellowship Church
and became Bishop Carl Bean, and his version's
been remixed and released several more times
over the years. Hit or no, it's a historically out of the
closet dance song, so here's a mash-up of both
versions, by Valentino and Carl Bean.


   Valentino and Carl Bean




On to Part 2