Slim Pickens and Lizzie Perkins often got into quarrels that were broadcast into the homes of Boston's country music listeners. Many agree that they sounded like an old married couple, although Slim routinely turned down Lizzie's proposals.
The two radio personalities -- and the man behind both their voices -- were as much a part of listening to Jerry Howorth's radio shows as the country tunes that bracketed them.
Mr. Howorth, a legend among New England's country music fans for his 40 years on radio and television and for his musical duo Jerry & Sky, died April 9 in Punta Gorda, Fla., of congestive heart failure. He was 84.
As a young country musician playing at fairs throughout New England, Gerald Howorth looked the part, wearing a cowboy hat, shirt, and boots.
"He was kind of a star to the industry," said Bettyanne Roberts of Athol, who first saw Jerry & Sky at a fair in Hingham when she was about 11 years old.
What stood out, she said, was his ability to make the personalities he invented seem so real. Lizzie was an older woman, and Slim, well, "You would have thought he was older than [Howorth] was," Roberts said.
In humorous skits that Mr. Howorth ad-libbed for decades, Lizzie often tried to get Slim to agree to marry her. He finally did.
"People went crazy then because in all those years he had never said yes before," longtime friend Larry Sullivan of Brockton said yesterday.
But Mr. Howorth did not realize the consequences of this seemingly innocuous engagement.
Gifts for the betrothed started pouring into WBZ, including a $10,000 check from one female listener, and because of WBZ's policy, Mr. Howorth had to return the gifts at quite some cost to the station. "Folks of all the world believed they were three actual people," Gordon Brown, founder of the New England Country Music Historical Society said.
After the all-night show ended at 7 a.m., Mr. Howorth -- dressed as Slim in a beard and gray hair -- would appear on WBZ television as the weatherman. He was known for his goofy pronunciation of some words. The word humidity, for instance, came out as
"humididittie" and barometer became "barri-meter." He left WBZ in the mid-1950s and went to work for WEEI. Moving around among Boston stations, including WHDH in Boston, WJDA in Quincy, and WATD in Marshfield, Mr. Howorth "was on most of the Boston stations at one time or another," longtime fan Bud Paradis of York, Maine, said yesterday.
Paradis, who recalls seeing Jerry & Sky open a larger act at the Portland, Maine, City Hall auditorium in 1947, said the duo's sound "was different from anything I had ever heard. They were just unique."
In 1984, Mr. Howorth and his wife, Catherine "Kay" T. (Sullivan), retired to New Hampshire. A year later, he was inducted into the New England Country Music Hall of Fame.
In addition to his wife, of North Wakefield, N.H., and Punta Gorda, Mr. Howorth's survivors include his sister, Virginia Bodwell of Nashua; and a grandson.
Funeral services have been held. Burial will be in Florida.