Tonight we have a Double-Feature of Horror Hosts—a host of horrors, if you will! The city of Nashville is the place from which these two creatures crawled.
Nashville’s first Horror Host was Dr. Lucifer. Dr. Lucifer was portrayed by Ken Bramming and he was on the air off and on for 11 years from the late ‘50s to the late ‘60s on WSIX-8 and later on WMCV-17.
He was a smooth Transylvanian nobleman who wore an eye-patch and dressed in a white tie and black tuxedo. He also seemed to smoke non-stop—to support the local economy?
"Shock Theater” would open as Dr. Lucifer walked out into a pool of light while “Night on Bald Mountain” and later with “Blues for Lucifer” played—performed by Norman Cole, a local musician.
The most prominent character to appear on the show with Dr. Lucifer was Granny Gruesome. Lucifer would always end his show with the sign off, “Good night… and pleasant dreams!”
A legend was born in September of 1971 on WSM-Channel 4 in Nashville—Sir Cecil Creape’s CREATURE FEATURE went on the air.
A portly, balding hunchback with a set of chompers from Hell certainly didn’t seem like a TV star, but from the moment he appeared from “deep within the catacombs” and onto television sets, he was a smash hit.
He was a charmer, this sophisticated ogre and with well-written scripts-- he loomed as large as his overbite when it came to ratings and fandom!
Talk of Sir Cecil Creape and his greeting “Did someone caaaall?” was everywhere. He appeared on the cover of the Tennessean’s Sunday Showcase and at live events. He had a fan club and the Boy Scouts even issued a special patch.
Speculation grew about the identity of Sir Cecil. Many of WSM’s on-air personalities were suspects, including weatherman Pat Sajak (who actually did work on scripts for the Creature Feature). Cecil was actually a station film editor named Russ McCown. A graduate of Vanderbilt and a native Nashvillian, he decorated the set with his own antiques.
The voice that provided the intro each week was that of Ken Bramming, Dr. Lucifer himself! Cecil would mention his friend the Doctor and Bramming would eventually return for guest shots on Creature Feature.
Unfortunately the show’s days were up by the end of 1973. WSM moved the show from prime spot at 10:30pm Saturday Night spot to Saturday afternoons. This left out most of the teenage and adult audience although it probably increased the size of the kids audience.
Ten years later, Russ was working for The Nashville Network, a cable channel that needed cheap programming. Add public domain movies to Sir Cecil’s charm and his resurrection was assured.
“The Phantom of the Opry” debuted in March… Sir Cecil’s lair was now located beneath the Opry House, but little else changed. The show ran until late 1985 and while it didn’t catch on like it did originally, it was the first Horror Host program to appear on a nationwide cable channel.
“Phantom of the Opry”
AMERICAN SCARY (deleted sequence)