By Eryn Brothers, Staff Writer
Editors’ Note: This is the second article in our Regional Queer Country Series, where we take some time to scope out the queer country scene in regions all across the United States. The first, Country Queers of the Northeast, can be found here. – AVP
WELL YEE HAW EVERYBODY!
To those of you who live outside of the Lonestar State, you may only know Texas as being rife with ten gallon hats and cowboy boots. Those who have traveled to Tejas or have had the privilege of living under that wide open sky, are completely and utterly aware of the melting pot of music that Texas truly is.
From being the birthplace of conjunto and tejano, to inspiring the great country music outlaws of regaled history, its coast being host to The Chitlin Circuit, this part of the American Southwest also is home to a mélange of Queer musicians that play everything from gospel to indie folk. This list cannot even begin to cover the grand expanse of musicians and communities that Queer Texans call home, and if you are one of them, please join our directory!
If you don’t know the story of Willmer Broadnax, buckle up. Broadnax was born in Houston, Texas on December 28th, 1916, and is one of the first recorded Black transgender men in American history. Known as “Little Ax”, due to his short stature and powerful voice, Willmer got his start singing gospel with his brothers and The St. Paul Gospel Singers.
He would eventually move to Los Angeles with one of his brothers to join another gospel group the Southern Soul Stirrers. Broadnax would eventually leave to start Little Axe and the Golden Echoes. Willmer recorded groundbreaking gospel albums, and became a beloved figure in this genre.
His distinctive tenor voice was regaled and admired by colleagues and family alike. Only after his murder (at the hands of his girlfriend in 1992) was it revealed that Broadnax was trans.
The Texas music community has always been open to travelers and transplants alike. Hailing from Nebraska, Devin Jake has claimed Austin as his home. His grasp of classic country traditions are about as smooth as his voice.
From spirited numbers like “Honky Tonk Angel”, to more melodious ballads like “I’m Sittin’ Here”, go just as good with a small town as it does with a Hill Country drive.
(Also, peep fellow Country Queers Melissa Carper and Rebecca Patek in this video! Love to see it.)
The wander daddy of Queer country music, Melissa Carper, knows how to make you dance and cry at the same time. Her latest release, Daddy’s Country Gold is a sweet homage to the old being new without being derivative or cute.
Austin has been heart and home for Carper (with stints of Arkansas in between) as she has been an integral part of the Texas country scene for quite some time. Check out her other projects such as Sad Daddy and Buffalo Gals!
(Howdy, Western AF pals!)
This West Texas native is not to be fucked with. Julie Nolen’s 2016 release Songs of Dignity and Grit is full of piss, vinegar, and fortitude. Nolen’s known for haunting and picking at Austin’s classic bars Saxon Pub and Hole in the Wall, on top of being a stage presence that you need to see to believe.
With a powerful voice and songs full of candid honesty and texture; Lizzy Lehman is one of the genuine treasures of Texas. From the powerhouse group Carry Illinois to her solo work, Lehman is unafraid and unabashed. Utilizing strong songwriting chops along with everything from folk to pop to explore her inner world.
Fans of Country Queer know that we love Jaimee Harris. Filled with swagger and executing a tightrope-walk between tender delivery and vicious recanting, she is a singularly impressive songwriter.
This Texas raised self-proclaimed “folk and soul” player recently showed a variety of her chops by releasing the stripped down Congress House Sessions in 2021.
This Austin-native Latinx songstress knows what’s up. Gina Chavez works with a blend of folk and pop, tethering the world to her heart either by love or the social justice she demands.
Award winning-from the Austin Music Awards to being the Grand Prize Winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, Chavez’ new album, La Que Manda effuses poignant and tactile emotion with every track.
Creekbed Carter Hogan
A native of the Willamette Valley, Bridget Brewer, the person behind the moniker Creekbed Carter Hogan, has claimed Austin as home.
Regaling and proselytizing the importance of “the new trans folk aesthetic”, their music is informed by bugs, nature, Catholicism, queerness, and all the transformations that lie therein. S/he also co-frontperson of Milktoast Millie and the Scabby Knees, a queer bluegrass band. S/he just released Good St. Riddance this year.
We at Country Queer are so proud that Bonnie Whitmore made her official coming out statement in our humble rag. Whitmore not only has Texas heritage, but a musical one at that, with an opera singing mother and a Texas troubadour dad.
Whitmore’s latest release, Last Will and Testament, showcases tender pining, ragged, raw vocals and a collaboration with Jaimee Harris. Her talent is multi-genre, multi-faceted, and full of stunning gravitas.
Fun fact: Gretchen Phillips is mentioned in the Le Tigre song “Hot Topic.” Why? Because Gretchen Phillips is THE HDIC: Head Dyke In Charge.
Native to Houston, Phillips has made a name for herself through punk, folk, rock n’ roll, and doing lesbian versions of classic country songs(like her cover of Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’.”) Her song writing and work with the band Meat Joy was integral to the Riot Grrrl movement.
Her work with Two Nice Girls gave us the queer country classic “I Spent My Last $10.00 (On Birth Control and Beer)” . There is a reason why Phillips is not only a Texas treasure, but a true Dyke-con.
Hardened and Tempered
This Austin duo comprised of Kristin Davidson and Carolyn Phillips believe that soft and supple is strong. Riding off their 2021 release Hold The Line, the incredibly humanitarian approach they have to their music resounds with every word and string.
Their political ballad “The Republican River” will move you, and “Beer Bottles and Broken Hearts” will swoon you into the night. On top of these harmonies, this fierce duo has also founded Songs For The Soul, a non-profit that focuses on helping professional caretakers receive the emotional support and care that they need.
A quick aside from the author: for those of y’all outside of the South, being Southern and queer is extremely hard. During the research of this article, it came to my attention that some of us are safe enough to play out in bands and shows, but not be able to be OUT due to safety issues. Our hearts are with you, and we see you and love you.