To hear Bryan Hicks tell it, it’s a good thing he grew up with a sharp sense of humor and a knack for making people laugh.
“I’ve never really been good at anything but cracking wise,” he said. “I was not popular at all (as a kid) – chubby, weird, geek and everything – so the only way I was able to get a little leeway was to crack jokes and make people laugh.”
So it’s possible that fate shined on him a little after he graduated from Northeast Jones High School in 1999, when he got his first chance to do just that – this time, over the radio. While working a part-time gig as a delivery driver at Elkins Wholesale in Laurel, Hicks attended a party with an acquaintance who worked for Rock 104.5’s Morning Show.
At some point during the course of the night, the acquaintance asked Hicks if he’d like to come in one morning and sit in on the show.
“I was working at Elkins part-time, and going to (Jones County Junior College) very part-time – missing 90 percent of the classes,” Hicks said. “So I said, ‘yeah, that’d be great.’”
Before long, Hicks found himself at the main offices of Blakeney Communications, which manages Rock 104.5, B95 Country, KZ94.3 and several other radio stations. Right before the Morning Show went on the air, the host asked Hicks what he wanted to be called on the radio.
“I replied, ‘Bryan Hicks, I guess,’ which is my real name,” Hicks said. “I knew most people in radio used aliases, but I figured there was no way I could keep up with more than one name.
“So he said, ‘What about Flyin’ Bryan?’ I said, ‘Sure, that works. Why not?’ And the name just stuck.”
Although the newly-christened Flyin’ Bryan was pretty nervous during the four-hour morning show, the gig went well, and he was invited to come back the next day. On that second day, Larry Blakeney, the president of the company, asked Hicks if he’d be interested in working at the station permanently.
“I said, ‘Absolutely, because I don’t know that I’m going to be good at anything else,’” Hicks said. “I’ve had two jobs my entire life – Elkins and this one – so I really just kind of stumbled into it.”
And since then, Hicks has been a mainstay on the Morning Show from 6-10 a.m. every weekday – with stints on night shift and the Midday Shift – where he’s provided laughs to his radio audience across 18 counties.
“The most fulfilling thing to me, is that even after all these years, people still seem to get enjoyment out of it,” Hicks said. “Nobody wants to be up that early, least of all me – been doing it 19 years, and I’m still not a morning person.
“So nobody wants to be up that early, but we just try to make the best of it. People have told me, ‘Man, I just didn’t want to do it until I turned on the Morning Crew. I had a few laughs, so now I can do it.’”
Shortly after Hicks came on to the Morning Show, he was joined by host Tom Colt, who also serves as operations manager for the station. The duo spend every day entertaining their crowd with promotions like “Stupid Question of the Day” and “True Dat,” as well as providing continuous weather radar reports, forecasts and storm alerts.
“I always make the joke that it’s just like a marriage,” Hicks said. “We do love each other, but that doesn’t mean we want to hang out when we don’t have to.
“And the other thing that makes it just like a marriage is that there’s the same amount of sex, which is zero. But Tom is great, and he’s taught me a lot of things about radio. Just having him there with me has really helped me out; he’s really good at what he does.”
The Morning Crew has been named “Mississippi’s Radio Personalities of the Year” three times, and Hicks was recently named Best Local Radio DJ at the annual Best of the Pine Belt awards show.
In that contest, Hicks came out on top against fellow personalities Colt, John Lamar of Rock 104, Mean Willie Green of WUSM 88.5 and Big Daddy of Wild 106.3.
“I’m just trying to make the guys that are in there with me laugh,” Hicks said. “So you forget you’re doing a show, until people come up to you outside of it.
“So I knew I was nominated, but I never expected to win. It could have been any one of us, so the fact that it did happen just blew my mind. I felt a little like Sally Field at the Oscar speech – ‘You love me. You really love me.’”
And although Hicks never expected to make a career in radio, there’s nothing else he could see himself doing, now or for the foreseeable future.
“What gets me up every morning is trying to think outside the box and make people laugh at things they wouldn’t normally laugh at,” he said. “If I’m not entertaining, I’m not happy.
“So I see myself continuing this until they pull the plug – until management comes to their senses and says, ‘What are we doing? We have been paying this guy for 18 years; something needs to be done.’”