He retired in 2008 as co-host of Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) “The Morning Show,” but Tom Keith was best known as the sound effects genius for “A Prairie Home Companion.” MPR reports that Keith died Sunday (10/30) at age 64 after collapsing at his home.
“He was an ex-Marine (who could do a fine drill instructor), a good golfer, a sturdy, reliable, can-do colleague, a gifted performer with the unassuming demeanor of a stagehand. Whenever Tom came onstage for a sketch, I could see the audience’s heads turn in his direction. They could hear me but they wanted to see Tom, same as you’d watch any magician. Boys watched him closely to see how he did the shotgun volleys, the singing walrus, the siren, the helicopter, the water drips. His effects were graceful, precise, understated, like the man himself. All of us at the show are shocked by his passing and send our sincere condolences to his family and also to the listeners who enjoyed his work so much,” said a statement from Garrison Keillor.
Keith applied for a board operator job at MPR in 1973, fresh out of the Marines and needing a job. He seemed to have accidentally stumbled into his life’s calling.
“Tom was 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,” said Keillor.