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Gay country music icon Patrick Haggerty died Monday at 78: NPR

Country music artist and activist Patrick Haggerty died Monday at the age of 78.



JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Patrick Haggerty, country music star and activist, died this week at the age of 78. Haggerty broke ground as the first openly gay country music artist with the band Lavender Country. He first came to realize he was gay growing up on a dairy farm in Washington state in the 1950s. In 2014, Haggerty came to StoryCorps with his daughter Robin. He told her about the day he performed at a school assembly, and his father showed up unannounced.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK HAGGERTY: I go to school with my older brother, and on the way to school I put glitter on my face. And my brother said, what the hell are you doing? I said, I’m putting on my suit. He said, well, I wouldn’t be killed wearing that. So he dropped me off at school. And he called my dad, and he said, Dad, I think you better get up there. It’s not going to look good. So my dad drove up to high school, and he was wearing his farmer’s jeans, and there was cow shit on them, and he had his clodhopper boots on. And when I saw him coming, I walked around the hall and hid from him. And it wasn’t because of what I was wearing.

ROBIN BOLLAND: (Laughs).

HAGGERTY: It was because of what he was wearing. So the editing goes well, and I get in the car, and I go home with my dad. And my dad says to me, I was walking down the hall this morning, and I saw a kid that looked a lot like you duck in the hallway to avoid his dad. But I know it wasn’t you because you would never do that to your dad. And I squirmed in my seat, and I finally broke down, and I said, well, dad, did you have to wear your cow shit jeans…

BOLLAND: (Laughs).

HAGGERTY: …At my assembly? And he said, look. Everyone knows I’m a dairy farmer. This is who I am. And he looked me straight in the eye, then he said, now, how about you? When you’re an adult, who will you go out with at night? And I said, I don’t know. And he said, I think you know that, and it won’t be that McLaughlin (ph) glancing at you, but you won’t even pick up that fucking phone. Now, I’m going to tell you something today, and you may not know what to think about it now, but you’ll remember it when you’re an adult. Don’t sneak because if you sneak like you did today, it means you think you’re doing the wrong thing. And if you spend your life thinking you’re doing the wrong thing, then you’ll ruin your immortal soul.

And of all the things a dad could have said to his gay son in 1959, my dad tells me to be proud of myself and not sneak around. My reaction back then was to step out into the hay field and pretend I was as much of a man as possible. And I remember flipping 50-pound balls three feet in the air, saying, I’m not a fag. What is he talking about ?

BOLLAND: (Laughs).

HAGGERTY: But he knew where I was going. And he knew making me feel bad about it wasn’t the right thing to do. I had the patron saint of sissy dads. And, no, I didn’t know it then, but I know it now.

SUMMERS: It was Patrick Haggerty and his daughter, Robin Bolland, for StoryCorps in Seattle, Washington. Patrick passed away on Monday. He was 78 years old. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress.

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