under the sun
THURSDAY, MARCH 19. 1992
THE Over At
show were (from
Hickman , Fred
Wood, C O.
Many Remember Hickman Brothers From First Local Broadcast
BY TKRRY POPK
When Wilmington's firsl television
station began broadcasts on April 28,
1954, the first show on the air was
"Over At Al's."
Two men Irom Hickman's Crossroads south
of Shallotte remember it well. They were part of
the country and western band, the Rhythm Range
Riders, which helped make television history in
southeastern North Carolina.
"I was scared to death," recalls Fred
Hickman. "1 had never done anything like that in
The show ended after 18 months of six-days
a-wcck live broadcasts. Members, who had not
been together for 35 years, met recently for a
reunion in Wilmington. "Over At Al's" also
featured comedy by Leland native C.O.
"Hayseed" Thomas and was hosted by Allen
Elrich Hickman joined his brother, Fred, in
the band and adopted a stage name. Bob Hicks.
Others in the band were Thclton 'Tex" Lancaster,
playing keyboard, and vocalist Twiddle Perry.
WMFD television, now WECT TV -6 in
Wilmington, offered the first broadcasts in the
area with signals that also reached into Brunswick
County. People still ask about the show and
where the people are today, said Thomas.
There was something about "Over At Al's"
that captured the hearts of area viewers. From 6
p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday,
families across the region invited the group into
their living rooms via television, somewhat of a
new invention for a community that had just
received its first station.
"We got more fan mail from that little show,"
But what made it special? For many viewers,
"Over At Al's" was the first show they had ever
watched on television. Thousands of television
programs and 38 years later, those same viewers
still fondly remember the show and the two
guitarists dressed in cowboy boots and Western
wear. Elrich has his theory about the show's
"It was the closcncss that we projected," he
said. "We were local people. A lot of people said
they liked that. You don't sec any home folks on
television today. Just people that wc don't know,
or know only from television."
In the 50s, television stations relied on local
programming more than national shows. WMFD
ran "Over At Al's" live, relying on just one
camera at its studio. The Hickman brothers had
performed on radio, at square dances, in Thalian
Hall in Wilmington and at school proms.
The first show was an hour-long telecast that
went beautifully, said Elrich. The first song? He
remembers it well, "Happy Roving Cowboys."
"Every act that came to town was on the
show," said Elrich. "We had a good time. It was a
very pleasant experience."
Famous singers would drop in and the
Rhythm Range Riders would serve as their band.
Miss America 1954 and the Sunshine Boys were
on the show. The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville,
Tenn., extended invitations to the band. But it
could never find time to travel.
When the show ended, Fred entered the dry
cleaning business. Elrich returned to radio
broadcasting before he bccame a banker.
They formed another band, the Twilighters,
which played in nightclubs from Raleigh to
Myrtle Beach, S.C., on weekends for 20 years.
Once a month for 12 years, they played at a club
in St. Pauls.
Twiddle Perry is now Mrs. Wood, having
married and moved to California. Thomas still
does some broadcast work in Wilmington.
Compton left to become a minister and did some
missionary work overseas. He is now with the
radio and television division of the Southern
Baptist Association in Richmond, Va. "Tex" still
lives in Wilmington.
"It was just a dream come true for me," said
Fred of the reunion. "I had oftened wondered if
I'd see everybody again. It was so great to sec
everybody and to still know them alter we've all
aged. We'll try to do it again, if time stands."
Performing on live television had its special
moments as well, said Elrich. Compton, who
served as host, would often pop his head through
the artificial window on the set. Elrich remembers
the time Compton asked the group to learn a new
song before the 6 p.m. show. They had little time
"We printed up the words on a piece of
cardboard and taped it to the camera, like they
have with telcprompters today," said Elrich.
Everything was fine until the cameraman
started backing away to do a group shot.
"We started mumbling our words," said
Elrich. "He kept rolling on back to where we
couldn't sec our words. We got tickled over that
We had a lot of fun."
It made local celebrities of the group. Out in
the community, people would stop the Hickman
brothers to say how much they enjoyed the show
anil to request a favorite song.
"They talked to me just like they knew me,"
said Fred, "and I didn't know them. We made a
lot of friends. People would say, '1 saw you on
TV again last night.'"
Even today, people will cut an eye toward
Fred and look twice, like they see someone they
recognize but are not quite sure. It's especially
true with people who watched and remember the
old television show.
"They know that they've seen me
somewhere," said Fred, "but they can't quite put
their finger on it."
Musical talent runs in the family. Elrich's son.
Rick, is now lead guitarist for Crossroads, a band
named after Hickman's Crossroads that performs
in area clubs. Freddy Hickman, Fred's son, plays
drums for Crossroads.
It took long hours of work to produce a 30
minute television show, said Fred, but there are
"It was truly a great experience," he said.
Health & Fitness Center
Nautilus ? Free Weights ? Aerobics ?
Karate & Kung Fu ? Sauna
Sellers Road (behind Resort Plaza) ? Shallotte |
754-A SPA (2772) *
Mon-Thurs 9:30-9:30; Friday 9:30-8:30; Sat 10-4; Sun 1-6 1
-L?# 5 ELECTRiC
VOLTAGE REGULATORS GENERATORS
REPAIR? REBUILT? EXCHANGED
Royal Oak Road & Hwy. 17 N , Shallotte
CIM1 THE BRUNSWICK BEACON
A Variety Of Flags
Desert Storm ? Yellow Ribbon
FREE Catalog & Delivery
jf"7p)l 101 Aviators Lane
Burgaw, NC 28425
Catherine Moore. Owner
Local Art ? Pottery ? Jewelry
"Oil Painting Classes"
"THE UNUSUAL" [
Winter Hours (Jan. <& Feb.)
Tucs., Thurs., Sal. 10-5
Calabash Post Office Coi
It I N G O i
Thursday Nights ? Doors Open 6:15 pm 5
Calabash VFW Post 7288 3
Carter Rd.. Trader s Village, Calabash. 579-3577
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Games begin at 7:30 PM
Minimum "Buy In" $5.00
Minimum Pay Out $600.00 |Q
Snacks Available ? No Children under 12 K
TODAY, El. RICH "BOB" Hickman, standing, and Fred Hickman
have fond memories of that 1954 television show. They live at
Hickman 's Crossroads south of Shallotte.
William Temple Allen, CPA
Income Tax Preparation/Representation
(federal and all state returns)
Electronic Filing and Rapid Refund
Accounting and Bookkeeping Services
Secretarial/Word Processing Services
Medical Practice Management Services
(review of ICD-9/CPT coding)
Tax and Estate Planning
Former IRS Assistant Director
Technical Division. Washington. D.C.
24 Years Tax Experience
435 33rd St., Sunset Beach