While Steve Grand and Josey
Greenwell have been receiving a lot of attention, column space and giving gay men plenty to ogle, but they are not actually the first gay country music stars.
In the early 1970s there was a country music outfit with the suspect name of Lavender Country led by the openly gay Patrick Haggerty. Their self- titled 1973 album is considered the first gay-themed release in country music history with tracks such as Come Out Singin’, Back In The Closet Again and the gayest country song title of all time, Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears. The band split in 1976, but was rediscovered by gay historians decades later, with the Lavender Country album finally released on CD in 1999. The band reunited for one final performance in Seattle. Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears also featured on a compilation album released last year called Strong Love: Songs Of Gay Liberation 1972-1981.
Another gay country performer is the redheaded singer/songwriter Shane McAnally. As well as having had a minor country hit of his own, he’s written hit songs for big country names like Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert and Kenny Chesney and five of his songs feature in the 2005 gay drama Shelter. The prolific musician married his partner Michael last year and they are now proud parents of twins.
A bisexual name to have made a mark in the genre is Jimbeau Hinson. Hinson is a veteran country music songwriter and a solo artist this year with Strong Medicine, an inspiring album charting his journey as HIVpositive since 1985.
Canadian Drake Jensen has released three country albums of which OUTlaw is his latest, released earlier this year. He married his male manager five years ago and last year released a version of Tammy Wynette’s country classic Stand By Your Man.
Then there’s singer/songwriter Mark Weigle (who wrote The Two Cowboy Waltz), Brian Glenn with his Original Intent album and hit country songwriter and star of reality show Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Shane Stevens. Keen TV watchers will have also picked up on the closeted gay wannabe country music singer in Nashville played by Chris Carmack. His duet, You Ain’t Dolly, appears on the soundtrack album to the series.
And while Willie Nelson is not gay, it’s worth mentioning the country music legend wasn’t afraid to release the pro-gay anthem, Cowboys Are Secretly, Frequently (Fond of Each Other), just in time for Valentine’s Day back in 2006.