Nov. 1, 2011
BOSTON — Tom Keith, longtime sound effects man for “A Prairie Home Companion,” died October 30 at the age of 64 of an apparent heart attack, Minnesota Public Radio announced.
A local theater crew is “hearing" the loss more than your average fan.
Boston’s Post-Meridian Radio Players performs new and classic radio programs on stage with live sound effects, like “A Prairie Home Companion” though often with a spooky edge.
“He was definitely an inspiration for us,” said Artistic Director Neil Marsh. He called Keith “sort of the poster child” for live radio sound.
When explaining the Post-Meridian’s shtick to new audiences, “we would always use him as an example,” Marsh said. “He was the best example of that art — one of the few people who are actually known for doing it these days.”
The players were so amused by one particular Keith rapid-fire rhubarb pie routine that they staged their own version, advertising “Cosmo Flakes,” as a tribute. Marsh is considering reviving the tribute for the company’s January 2012 show at Boston’s Arisia science fiction convention.
Still, that routine “just pales in comparison to the kind of job Tom Keith was doing,” Marsh said.
Garrison Keillor wrote on the show’s website that in Keith’s final performance, on October 22, he “played a zombie and a beery Elizabethan bartender, did the sound effects for ‘Lives of the Cowboys’ and ‘Mom’ and did a wonderful and shocking sound effect of a grade-school teacher being shrunk from six feet to three inches, using a balloon, some small sticks, and vocal thwops and splorts, and then did the voice of a three-inch-tall female.”
Marsh said, “Whoever comes after him is going to have very big shoes to fill.”
WGBH Radio airs “A Prairie Home Companion” every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at noon.
Minnesota Public Radio remembers Tom Keith.