About The Group
Early publicity seemed to indicate the duo grew up in a small town in Tennessee. But apparently that may have been a PR person at work for they were both from New Hampshire - Portsmouth - even though their close, high harmonies would lead listeners to believe they were from elsewhere.
In 1944, Richard Keeler wrote the duo was on WHDB, but Floy Case in the same issue reported that they had returned to WHDH after being off the air for a while but had been on WEEI.
Joseph F. Dinneen wrote in his June 29, 1945 column in the Boston Globe "Inside Boston" about Jerry and Sky's popularity. It seems that the duo had a 'beach wagon' with their name "Jerry and Sky" on it that was used to transport them to their personal appearances. They "...are well known in every veterans' hospital in nearby Boston, and they are far more familiar to the people who have gathered in town halls throughout New England to hear them in person than they are to Bostonians."
Mr. Dinneen even fell for the "...toured the hills and mountains of Tennessee, their native state." public relations lore. He wrote they "...have become specialists in hill-billy lore." ... "and have taken the time and trouble to write and record the lyrics of long forgotten songs that mountaineers have been singing for years."
Mr. Dinneen went so far as to state they were born in Nashville and educated in the public schools. They were said to be entertainers even before graduating from high school as they were already doing appearances at various town halls and carnivals. They were booked for radio appearances on "...stations below the Mason-Dixon line." He stated they ended up with a show on WBT in Ashland, Kentucky. Then radio station WOV in New York invited them for a stint. Eventually, they found their way to WHDH in Boston, part of the Blue Network.
As the group gained popularity among the audience there, their act grew. They included a couple of race horses, a trick horse and would do a tent show in a circus style like setting. He even noted that their tent had been "...thoroughly fireproofed and approved by the fire underwriters and the Department of Public Safety."
They were said to be heard across the country via transcriptions.Finally, Mr. Dinneen summed up the Jerry and Sky feature article by stating, "The Tennessee Hillbilly's have become adopted Bostonians."
Ralph Jones wrote an article for National Hillbilly News in April 1946, trying to sell the point the duo was from Tennessee, then gradually worked their way north. It appears they may have worked in New York for a time, but a sponsor may have heard them. The "Community Opticians" company wanted to sponsor a 6:30pm show over WHDH in Boston. It was further stated that the Hooper Ratings showed they had one of the largest listening audiences in that area. Another article in December 1945 stated they were born in Nashville, Tennessee and were known as the "Men from the Middle of the Mountain" and had been on the air for nine years, which means their radio career may have begun around 1936.
At that time, the 'show' was more than just the two of them. Their troupe also included Martin Hall from McMinnville, Tennessee on fiddle and five string banjo. Ralph Jones, from Stickney, West Virginia played dobro and steel. Peggy Dowling from Hingham, Massachusetts was the featured female singer. Oklahoma Charlie was on accordion, from Nashua, New Hampshire. As was common in that era, the troupe had a comedy act in the name of Eddie Dyer, who at one time was said to have worked with Lou Costello. Finally, they included a nine-year old singer by the name of Shirley Connely.
Mr. Jones indicated that the studio broadcasts over WHDH were open to the public and they would usually have about 30 or 40 people in the audience.
Around September 1946, Richard Keeler reported that the group had left WHDH and were now known as the "Swingsters Trio" and were doing night club work in the Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts area. Their slot on WHDH had been taken over by the Sagebrush Four.
The summer of 1946, columnists reported that Jerry and Sky spent the summer touring Nova Scotia.
Billboard magazine would not always write glowing reviews about new releases. In 1947, they wrote
a review of "Sparkling Brown Eyes".
" These New Englanders sing in a frantic Ozark Mt. style, blending their voices for an almost violent Sparkling Brown Eyes. More reserved is their singing on the slow ballad, "Troubles In My Heart". The Melody Men provide adequate string accompaniment."
In 1949, the duo was appearing over WROW in Albany, New York.
In August 1950, Billboard ran a note from station manager Johnny Small of WOCB in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts that Jerry and Sky were being heard daily on his station.
When the duo broke up, Jerry became a disc jockey on station WBZ in Boston on the late night shift. He incorporated a couple of characters into his routine such as Slim Pickens (the 'BZ Weatherman) and the station's cleaning lady, Lizbeth Perkins. Later, he moved to station WJDA in Quincy, Massachusetts where he had a morning show. Joe Cullinane wrote in his "Radio-TV Notes" column in the Boston Globe in May of 1954 that the Jerry and Sky show had been replaced by "All Night With Paul Knight." Jerry as his sidekick "Slim Pickens" was moving to WBZ-TV where he would do the weather report each day at 12:10pm.
In April 1955, WBZ made another programming change. They announced a new "Jerry Howard Show" that was to be heard every night Monday through Saturday. He was bringing two of his characters with him - SLim Pickens and Elizabeth Perkins. The show was said to be heard in 42 of the 48 states. He was also including "The Little White Church" by popular request as well.
May of 1956 saw Jerry leaving WBZ and starting a show over WEEI and of course, bringing along his 'characters'. He was expected to eventually start an all night radio show for the station.
In May of 1956, Elizabeth L. Sullivan noted in her "Radio and Television" column that stations were rethinking programming and sometimes taking off the more popular shows. One was the dropping of the Jerry Howard show in the fall of 1955 "...who seems to be the right tonic for those who can't sleep nights and for night workers."
Ms. Sullivan included a note from Mildred Bowley, a shut-in of Dedham, "Thousands of night workers and folks who made it a point to roll over in bed and turn on the radio were stunned to hear Jerry Howard, Elizabeth Perkins and Slim Pickens say goodby to many good-living folks from all walks of life,"
Ms. Bowley went on, "Lizzie's fine organ playing of old church hymns and Slim Pickens' humor will be missed. The program did things for people inwardly; made them have a little more love in life for good and decent living ... something we so badly need in these times. I truly believe Sgt Sullivan, of the Hull Police Department must have had these thoughts in mind too when he requested Elizabeth Perkins to play that old church hymn, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."
Ms. Sullivan cited another fan letter from a V.B.L. of Boston, "We who have spent sleepless nights have enjoyed the Jerry Howard program, including the Little White Church. It was such a wholesome program. It seems to me that a listener should be able to tune in during the night and get something other than the usual assault on the ears."
Sky went to work for Dale Carnegie Schools and quit performing in public. In fact, in 2007, the Dale Carnegie folks were planning a surprise birthday luncheon for him. Sky went into real estate and retired to Florida.
Credits & Sources
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