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‘Prairie Home’ sound effects man Keith, 64, dies

TUESDAY, NOV. 1, 2011


ST. PAUL, Minn. – Tom Keith, a longtime sound effects man who was the source of creaking doors, clucking chickens and more on “A Prairie Home Companion,” has died. He was 64.

Keith’s death was announced Monday by Jon McTaggart, chief executive of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media, which distributes “A Prairie Home Companion.” He died suddenly of a heart attack after collapsing at his home Sunday, “Prairie Home” host Garrison Keillor said in a statement.

Keillor remembered Keith as “one of radio’s great clowns.”

“He was serious about silliness and worked hard to get a moo exactly right and the cluck too, and the woof. His whinny was amazing – noble, vulnerable, articulate. He did bagpipes, helicopters, mortars, common drunks, caribou (and elands and elk and wapiti), garbage trucks backing up, handsaws and hammers, and a beautiful vocalization of a man falling from a great height into piranha-infested waters,” Keillor said.

Keillor said Keith performed on the “Prairie Home” show Oct. 22 at St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater, where he did a sound effect of a grade-school teacher being shrunk from 6 feet to 3 inches “using a balloon, some small sticks, and vocal thwops and splorts, and then did the voice of a 3-inch-tall female.”

Keith complained of shortness of breath the next week but put off seeing a doctor, Keillor said. The Oct. 22 show, with guest John Lithgow, was Keith’s last “Prairie Home” performance.


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