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An undated photo shows "A Prairie Home Companion" sound-effects man Tom Keith during a performance. Keith died Sunday, after collapsing at his home. He was 64. (AP Photo/Minnesota Public Radio)

'Prairie Home' sound effects man Keith dies at 64

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- 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.

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Keith's death was announced today by Jon McTaggart, chief executive of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media, which distributes "A Prairie Home Companion." He died suddenly after collapsing at his home Sunday, and the cause wasn't immediately known.

Keith had performed with "Prairie Home" host Garrison Keillor since 1976, when Keillor hosted an early version of MPR's "The Morning Show." Keith worked as a board operator but began appearing more and more in skits Keillor produced.

When Keillor moved to "A Prairie Home Companion" full time, Keith co-hosted "The Morning Show," appearing in his alter ego of Jim Ed Poole.

He retired from that program in 2008 but continued to appear on Keillor's show. Along with other regular cast members, he appeared as himself in the 2006 Robert Altman movie "A Prairie Home Companion."

"We're just stunned," said Tim Russell, a voice actor on the show. "He was such a joy to work with and such a master at his craft. He's really going to be missed."

He said he'll remember Keith for his generosity and kindness, as well as his talent.

"We always had just the greatest time," Russell said. "He really kind of reinvented the whole genre of radio sound effects, going back to the earliest days of 'A Prairie Home Companion,' and he was so generous to the rest of us as actors and other cast members."

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