Americana band becomes fun outlet for professor

by SHELBY MORGAN//Staff Writer

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By day, Dr. Morri Hartgraves teaches Anatomy and Physiology, and by night he is a flea market troubadour.

The band, Flea Market Pickers, came to fruition when an old friend of his, who he played in a grunge band with in Los Angeles, showed up at his doorstep in Levelland after driving in a weathered, old, mobile recording studio truck that he purchased in Taos, New Mexico. He referred to this friend as “Porter,” because he wore rockmount shirts, and looks like Porter Wagoner. After learning that Dr. Hartgraves has been teaching at South Plains College, and playing occasionally at flea markets, he wanted to record him.

“I quickly write a dozen songs or so with a whole West Texas flea market vibe to them,” Dr. Hartgraves said. “I guess kind of a flea market Americana or Texana thing, but kind of Lubbock and West Texas centric. So, I start out doing this kind of hokey, bare bones thing. You know, the whole “Daddy’s boots on the porch,” and “the cotton field sprinklers,” kind of stuff. Then, I grab some flawed individuals hanging around the flea market and make a band. They are sketchy individuals, but actually pretty good musicians. I named us the Flea Market Pickers.”

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Their music can be described as easy listening and has an Americana sound. Songs such as “West Texas Summer,” “Big Bend Texas,” and “I Found Myself In Austin” will give you that front porch feeling, as if you were sitting in a rocking chair with a glass of sweet tea enjoying the sunshine. It can be found on Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify, as well as on the band’s website, fleamarketpickers.com.

“I like South Plains College and Levelland,” said Dr. Hartgraves. “It’s got a good vibe. One of my songs is about the old Mean Woman Grill, when it was in Levelland.”

He is no newcomer to the music scene, even having played at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin in 1988, before it was the Indie-Hipster festival that it is today, according to Dr. Hargraves. He has been teaching at SPC for the past 15 years, and can be found performing with his trade-day oddballs in front of an old tarp and mis-matched Christmas lights at various flea markets across the country.

“I love the flea market scene,” said Dr. Hartgraves. “It’s easy going and not pretentious.”

The band’s publicist, another junkyard wanderer who volunteers for the band, submitted some of their music to the City of Lubbock for an album that is sponsored by United Supermarkets, and has an annual CD release party at The Blue Light Live.   

The Lubbock Music Now album is a compilation of the best music that Lubbock has to offer. It is an album that comes out yearly, and is made up entirely of locally-produced music. All tracks that are submitted are narrowed down, and final selections are chosen by current and former members of the Texas branch of The Recording Academy (Texas Grammy Board).

“Well over 60 bands tried out for it,” explained Dr. Hartgraves “And low and behold, our band made the top 10. Some people were cranky that we made it. Because we’re just this rag tag bunch of edgy outcasts who entertain at the flea markets and tianguis. It turns out that the contest was judged by some members of the Grammys.”

The Lubbock Music NOW 2016 CD features the song “As The Drifting Rain Encircles,” and can be purchased at all Lubbock United Supermarkets, including Market Street and Amigo’s, as well as the Buddy Holly Center and Ralph’s Records in Lubbock.

[Photo courtesy of Dr. Morri Hartgraves]

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