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Gay country music icon Patrick Haggerty died Monday at age 78

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Country music star and activist Patrick Haggerty died this week at the age of 78. Haggerty broke ground as the first openly gay country music artist with the group Lavender Country. He first began to understand he was gay while growing up on a dairy farm in Washington State in the 1950s. Back 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 unexpectedly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK HAGGERTY: I'm riding to school with my oldest brother, and on the way to school, I'm putting glitter all over my face. And my brother said, what in the hell are you doing? I said, I'm putting on my costume. He said, well, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that. So he dropped me off at the school. And he called my dad up, and he said, Dad, I think you'd better get up there. This is not going to look good. So my dad drove up to the high school, and he had his farmer jeans on, and they had cow crap on them, and he had his clodhopper boots on. And when I saw him coming, I ducked around the hall and hid from him. And it wasn't because of what I was wearing.

ROBIN BOLLAND: (Laughter).

HAGGERTY: It was because of what he was wearing. So the assembly goes well, and I climb in the car, and I'm riding home with my father. And my father says to me, I was walking down the hall this morning, and I saw a kid that looked a lot like you ducking around the hall 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 busted out, and I said, well, Dad, did you have to wear your cow-crap jeans...

BOLLAND: (Laughter).

HAGGERTY: ...To my assembly? And he said, look. Everybody knows I'm a dairy farmer. This is who I am. And he looked me square in the eye, and then he said, now, how about you? When you're a full-grown man, who are you going to go out with at night? And I said, I don't know. And he said, I think you do know, and it's not going to be that McLaughlin (ph) girl that's been making goo-goo eyes at you, but you won't even pick up the damn telephone. Now, I'm going to tell you something today, and you might not know what to think of it now, but you're going to 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 run around spending your whole life thinking that you're doing the wrong thing, then you'll ruin your immortal soul.

And out of all the things a father in 1959 could have told his gay son, my father tells me to be proud of myself and not sneak. My reaction at the time was to get out in the hayfield and pretend like I was as much of a man as I could be. And I remember flipping 50 pound bales three feet up into the air, going, I'm not a queer. What's he talking about?

BOLLAND: (Laughter).

HAGGERTY: But he knew where I was headed. And he knew that making me feel bad about it in any way was the wrong thing to do. I had the patron saint of dads for sissies. And, no, I didn't know it at the time, but I know it now.

SUMMERS: That was Patrick Haggerty and his daughter, Robin Bolland, for StoryCorps in Seattle, Wash. Patrick died on Monday. He was 78. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.