Country Music Singers Who Were Out Before Chely Wright

Country Music singer Chely Wright officially came out this week, (two days ahead of schedule) and is apparently going to be making the rounds of various media outlets this week including the Today Show on Wednesday, May 5, to talk about coming out, being a lesbian and her new album and her new book. Congratulations are in order but I must say that I am a little disappointed about the whole business.

Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer (Hardcover) by Chely Wright
Coming out is usually not an easy process and I applaud anyone who does so. We still live in an age where in many quarters, even in places like North America, being openly gay is a bold statement and an invitation for trouble. And when it comes to Out entertainers, I say: 'the more the merrier.' It's a positive and helpful thing to have a lot of openly gay entertainers; especially if they're high profile ones -- stars and what not. For myself, I found this to be of great help and even at times a great solace to know that there were openly gay musicians and actors out there.

So for those above reasons and a few others I don't begrudge a girl from trying to get a little extra publicity when they're coming out with a new album, (especially since it's been awhile) and a new book. Particularly if said book is going to address some of the things that she's gone through in her life as a closeted lesbian. It's sure to be of inspiration to other closeted people including closeted or coming out teens. That's important I think.

But I am disappointed that Chely Wright and others are discounting, forgetting and ignoring those who were Out and living openly gay lives long before her.

In the online version of PEOPLE I read: "Country singer Chely Wright's reasoning was sound. 'There had never, ever been a country music artist who had acknowledged his or her homosexuality," she tells PEOPLE. 'I wasn't going to be the first.'" (That's how the article starts.)

Well that quote blew me away. "Never, ever"... Surely, I thought, there's been others -- why yes, k.d. lang for starters. I decided to wrack my brain and do a bit of internet searching for other country music artists who are gay.
Absolute Torch and Twang by k.d. lang

k.d. lang was doing country western long before she went on to being a pop singer. In 1985, Lang won a Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. In 1989 she won a Grammy Award — Best Country Vocal Collaboration for "Crying" (shared with Roy Orbison). In 1990 she won a Grammy Award — Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Absolute Torch And Twang". And those awards were after years of slogging through a lot of tours and venues. She "officially" came out in the Advocate in 1992. k.d. lang may not be in the country category anymore (such as it is today) but she was definitely Out and definitely a country music artist.

Honky Tonk Angel by the Topp Twins

The Topp Twins -- a very talented comedy-country western-yodelling duo from New Zealand. Lynda and Jools are identical twin sisters who have been performing for over twenty-five years. They perform at festivals all over and have won awards for Best Country Album: Grass Highway (2001) and Flowergirls and Cowgirls (2005). They were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame (2008) and won the Country Music Group/Duo Award at the 2009 National Country Music Awards. I'm sure I've missed a couple of awards. Oh yeah, they're both lesbians and have been out for quite some time. Too comedic? Hee Haw was all about comedy and country music too.

Lavender Country - Lavender Country

In 1972 Patrick Haggerty formed a country western band called Lavender Country. In 1973 they released a self-titled, full-length LP that's considered the "earliest out gay country LP". Lavender Country also included, keyboardist Michael Carr, singer and fiddler Eve Morris, and guitarist Robert Hammerstrom (the only heterosexual member). According to glbtq the album was inducted in 2000 into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, as the first openly gay country music album.

Out singer/songwriter Mark Weigle's debut album in 1998 "The Truth Is" included country/folk style songs including every gay cowpoke's favorite: "The Two Cowboy Waltz". Sid Spencer produced about four country western albums before he died in 1996 of AIDS at the age of 28. He was an Out gay musician. Jeff Miller toured the Gay Country Music circuit for about fourteen years. Doug Stevens & The Outband produced three CDs in the 90s. He was a founder and head of the Lesbian and Gay Country Music Association (Sadly, by the looks of it the association is no longer around.).

And there's been many other openly gay country music artists. Granted, many of these musicians, (both those listed and those I haven't listed) didn't have the breaks that Chely Wright had but they were and are country music artists who had/have acknowledged their 'homosexuality' nonetheless. That's my point really. Others have Come Out. So welcome to the club Chely Wright; enjoy life to its fullest now that you're out. It's a relief when you don't have to hide things and makes life so much more enjoyable.

Sources & Related Links:
- Chely Wright's Site
- Chely Wright's Book: Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer
- Chely Wright's New Album: Lifted Off the Ground
- Wikipedia: Chely Wright
- Queerty: Chely Wright Is Out 2 Days Ahead of Schedule. Which Means Everyone's Pissed at Publicist Howard Bragman
- PEOPLE: Country Music Artist Chely Wright Comes Out
- QMH: Read Chris Dickinson's amazing article on Gay Country Music
- QMH: Country Music - History of Gay Country Music
- QMH: History of Gay Country Music, Part 1
- QMH: History of Gay Country Music, Part 2
- QMH April 2000 (Country Music Show)
- glbtq: Country Music
- Wikipedia: Lavender Country
- Wikipedia: k.d. lang
- k.d. lang's Site
- Wikipedia: Topps Twins
- The Topp Twins' Site
- Stonewall Society: Doug Stevens Interview

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