The First Time I Heard Gay Music

I can pretty much pin it down to a date, September 15, 1979. And here’s how it happened. I moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in September of 1978, and came out of the closet immediately, as I joined the UUGC, as we called the Unitarian Universalist Gay Community. Now, it wasn’t really a “church group,” but the UU Church very generously let us use a meeting room and an office in their building. I quickly got involved with this group, and they did Everything that needed done, gay-wise, in Norfolk, from the gay hotline, pot luck dinners, the newspaper, held conferences, and whatever gay organizing that came up. Back in those days it was okay to call it the “gay community,” it was long before the politically correct days of Gay & Lesbian (or Lesbian & Gay), and the B&T weren’t even on the radar. 

In September 1979 we were scheduling a concert, to benefit the hotline, and brought down from Philadelphia very-gay singer/songwriter Tom Wilson (he later went by Tom Wilson Weinberg), and our unofficial organizational leader, Jayr Ellis, thought a great idea would be to get local gay business people “involved,” so persuaded a furniture store owner to house Tom, and his partner John, while they were in Norfolk for the concert. At the very last minute the furniture guy backed out, and Jayr asked if I could put them up. Sure, I had ample room in my condo, so I picked them up at the airport.

That evening was their concert, at the UU hall, and I loved it. Tom sang mostly from his first album, “Gay Name Game,” and the material was Very gay. Here’s where the headline of this article comes in. GLBT people today may not understand, but remember this was 1979. Until Tom’s concert I had NEVER HEARD MUSIC THAT SPOKE TO ME. I mean, this was early in our history’s music and I had only been out of the closet for a year. You could not hear lyrically gay music on the radio (as if you can do that now). So, this was music for which I did not have to switch the pronouns in my head to make them seem real. This was our music.


The first photo I took at that UUGC concert, and Tom’s partner (since 1973), John Whyte, even joined in the singing on one number, a favorite spoken-word piece called “1:00 a.m.” Below that are his two solo albums, “Gay Name Game,” and “All-American Boy,” (1982), along with “Don’t Mess With Mary,” which he wrote for the 1994 Stonewall 25th Anniversary, and “Get Used To It,” (1993), one of Tom’s musicals. Another much-performed one he wrote was “Ten-Percent Revue,” and he’s still writing musicals, with one in working stages currently, about Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. Tom and I have stayed friends over the years. In the bottom photo we are at a house concert in NYC, July 2004.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Tom twice for my QMH show, and you can see that coverage in my April 2001 and September 2003 shows. And please check out his website, at