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R.I.P. Tom Keith

Thanks for the kind thoughts shared so far, and bless you all for starting the tribute on your own. Like everyone who knew and loved Tom Keith, I’ve felt helpless and lost all day.

It is especially strange to sit here thinking about him on Halloween night.

Tom was a nimble radio sound effects artist who could, in an instant, summon the mad scientist from his lab and release the vampire from his coffin. He could do the werewolf howl and knew how to chortle like a maniac who has found a loose block in the wall of his dungeon. All the standard sounds of this cartoonish observance were in Tom’s wheelhouse, as they say, so you might expect him to embrace the day like Fezziwig loved Christmas. But Tom Keith was not a big fan of Halloween. A welcome and invited radio guest in thousands of homes, he frowned on the idea of strange people just showing up at the door. On Halloween night Tom became your crabby neighbor who would turn out the lights and go sit in the back room until the bell stopped ringing. This curmudgeonly attitude coming from someone known for his sense of fun was unexpected, and he knew it. In fact, if you asked him to portray a crabby neighbor who would turn out the lights and go sit in the back room until the bell stopped ringing, he could do it with nothing more than a raised eyebrow, a shift in weight, a suspicious grunt, and it would be so perfectly on target that your stomach would ache from laughing. Tom Keith saw many things with an unusual clarity. He did not take himself seriously, and he didn’t take you too seriously, either.

Like a lot of people, I first heard Tom as Garrison Keillor’s sidekick on MPR’s Prairie Home Morning Show. He was Ed Jim Poole, a trainer of attack chickens. The name was later re-shuffled to be Jim Ed Poole, though there was no real change in character. He gave us a sophisticated bumpkin and a dry wit comedian who appeared to say hilarious things by mistake. Or was it intentional? One could never be sure, and that mystery was an enduring part of the attraction. I worked side by side with Tom in a succession of small glass-walled rooms for five mornings a week over the course of more than 25 years, and I’m still wondering how funny he meant to be. Every broadcast was an expedition into unknown territories.

I wrote a pile of scripts for him. Many ideas were inspired by something I thought he could do, and he never let me down. Whatever I gave him got better with his contribution. The humor came in small moments – the timing of a single word or a slight change in inflection. It came in large helpings with the sudden inexplicable arrival of a fleet of one-bladed helicopters and the falsely brave yell of a man changing his mind as he is about to go over the falls in a barrel. Tom’s genius lay in the ability to render a complete realization of impossible illusions. Though he spent most of his adult life in radio, Tom Keith was, at heart, an illustrator.

He was also a softie, and a servant, always aware that his livelihood depended on an audience willing to pay the freight. Quite naturally he channeled his inner ex-Marine when he developed our Morning Show playlist guidelines, declaring that all listener requests must be turned in no later than 5 days before the date of broadcast. No exceptions. And with equal ease he tossed those regulations aside whenever anyone asked. If you were a grandmother needing to hear a specific song for your grandson’s birthday sometime in the next half hour before the kid’s bus comes, Tom Keith was your man. The harsh rules he had written could not stand up to anyone’s polite request.

Tom was not a prima donna or a show off, which was ironic given that he had such showy talents. His name was known to millions as one of the last surviving radio sound men, but he was not terribly interested in increasing his profile. He said no to television projects with Hollywood stars, and decided to stop touring with Prairie Home Companion when he got tired of the road. He would turn down commercial voice jobs because Schniederman’s was delivering a couch that afternoon, and he had to be at home to meet the truck. Above all, he was a man of his word and he always did his job, which was to make the work in front of him as good as it could be. He was frugal, sensible, practical, and oh so Minnesotan.

Respect outward.
Humor inward.
Integrity always.

Cheers, Buddy. And bon voyage.

Share a favorite Tom Keith / Jim Ed Poole memory.

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148 thoughts on “R.I.P. Tom Keith”

  1. Was hoping for this.So I will repeat mine, despite saying it on here before:
    In pre-Dale days on a late September Monday, when all sports or on at some level, especially baseball and college and pro football. Mondays sports are overwhelming .GK does the big into we all knew. Jim Ed says the Twins won3-2. After a pause,/GK asks is that ll. Jim Ed answers: all that interested me.

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  2. I remember a skit with Jim Ed working for some sort of roof ice dam busters. Their methods of ice busting got progressively more dangerous including explosives and his ‘yelp’ of “Clear” still cracks me up.
    What was the cereal; Oral Flakes? Bora Flakes?

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  3. You guys were my last good reason to wake up before 9:00 a.m. I was heartbroken when he left the Morning Show. Now I’m just plain sad he’s gone. Gonna miss him.

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  4. Thank you Dale. At this late hour on this long day, I cannot think of one favorite story; I am sure that will come as others write their stories in tribute and I wake from this sense of unreality. I am mourning the loss of the whole. Somehow, it seems as if I am mourning again the loss of the morning show. I am grateful to have found your blog and this community of great people who will celebrate Tom Keith / Jim Ed Poole for his gentle, humorous spirit. Good night and rest in peace Tom Keith.

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    1. I too feel I am mourning the loss of the morning show again, only this time it is so permanent. Rest in Peace Tom/Jim Ed. Your gentle soul will be missed by so many you never met but who all felt like you were part of their family.

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  5. A friend and philosophy professor of mine was on some board or another in the late 1970’s for MPR, and he told me that Garrison was a sort of dud at the social events he attended sponsored by MPR, being so shy, but the sound effects guy was a lot more fun to be with. Thank you Tom Keith for your wit and gentleness.Both of my children were chagrined to hear the sad news today.

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  6. Thanks for putting into words what so many of the rest of us have been feeling, Dale. So many memories crowd together. One example – every time Jim Ed portrayed a young teenage boy and his voice cracked – I cracked up.

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  7. After spending so many mornings with Jim Ed I felt we were friends. It was always special to see him in person and talk with him because he was so gracious yet some how befuddled that I acted like we knew each other so well.

    One of my fonder memories is also a Halloween tale. I brought a friend to the Morning Show Halloween show at the Fitz. I convinced him to dress up but he agreed to do so only if the costumes were simple. There was a costume parade an all the elaboratedly gussied up folks lined up to go backstage and then walk out and tell Jim Ed about their costumes so they could be announced.We came out wearing sunglasses, and buttons saying “I (heart) Venice” and “More than just gondolas.” We carried broomsticks painted white.

    We walked up to Jim Ed and he gave us this incredibly quizzical look and said, “What are you?” I was so delighted to stun him by answering, “A pair of venetian blinds.” He actually laughed while announcing us. It was such a Halloween treat to crack up Jim Ed..

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  8. If there were a Minnesota Comedy Hall of Fame, Tom Keith would be a shoo-in candidate to be featured in it. And yet I don’t get the sense he was very funny in daily life. Nor do I feel Tom Keith was very impressed with his own talent. What he was was a perfect instrument for presenting the humor of Garrison Keillor and Dale Connelly. He performed the stuff that they wrote. But that doesn’t begin to say it. Tom Keith was a courageous and generous performer who had total trust in the merit of the material he was asked to perform. With a script in his hand, he gave 100% to his performance. A somewhat shy and quiet Minnesotan thus shattered all expectations by connecting to an inner core of wackiness. That must have made it possible for Garrison and Dale to write with confidence, knowing that Tom would do a beautiful job of selling whatever they wrote.

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  9. I made it into the Fitz for the last half-hour of the last Morning Show broadcast (gratefully recovering the feeling in my frozen feet). It was my first time watching a live radio broadcast and I knew even then that it would be hard to beat.

    “You Are My Sunshine” made me cry then, as he does now.

    I’m not here often, but you are all in my thoughts. Thank you so much for your stories.

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  10. Rise and Grieve Baboons!

    Morning was a bit harder to greet this morning. Tom is one of those guys that made the world a bit better. He made me laugh for all these many years. He and Dale and GK have been part of the world in my ears since I discovered the Prairie Home Show during grad school in 1979, and they made my mornings brighter until June of last year.

    Favorite moment: the Last Morning Show is High on the list. But the traffic reports that were parts of the human body were also beyond absurd and funny.

    Last night I watched the St. Olaf show. He was visibly short of breath several times. Oh to rewind to last Thursday and make him go to the Dr.

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    1. Absent the ability to rewind, we may need to take Tom’s death as an opportunity for each of us on the Trail (lurkers included) to realize how many people’s lives we touch. Because of our interrelatedness we need to care not only for each other but for ourselves.

      Today make the appointments you’ve been putting off: arrange for that check-up, change the batteries in your smoke detector,seek counseling, eat better, get a flu shot,button up your overcoat, you,like Tom, belong to all of us and you are too important to lose.

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  11. Dale, what a beautiful tribute to Tom/Jim Ed – thank you. i, too, hope that he got to golf and enjoy as much as he wanted in his brief retirement. i’ll listen at noon today.
    thinking of you, Dale.

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  12. I’m still wrapping my head around the loss of a voice that brought me through many mornings from my misspent youth into adulthood and dedications to my own Child. With all the goofy voices and magical sounds, my favorite memories are when he would slip in a favorite Puccini aria into the Morning Show mix – often on days he was doing the Morning Show solo and sounding a bit like a kid who has just stolen a cookie from a candy jar and Mom hasn’t noticed.

    Save travels Mr. Keith – I’ll miss your demonic cackle, fabulous animal noises, and gentle demeanor.

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  13. What a great loss.
    My all time favorite Jim Ed and Dale bit was The Tale of Two Rudys. It was when Gorbachev was going to be visiting Minnesota in, I think about 1990. Governor Rudy Perpich and Senator Rudy Boschwitz were fighting over who would do what with the Russian leader during his visit. I wrote Jim Ed and Dale years afterward to see if they might have it recorded for posterity but Dale said “no”. It was hilarious; does anyone else remember it?
    Another favorite was one about a diner that offered descending levels of spicyness that were described in a several step range from something like Inferno through Mild and then to the ulitmate in bland, North Shore. Cracked me up.
    You are sadly missed TK.

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  14. One morning in TLGMS Dale was gently joshing Tom Keith because Tom was unhappy about a listener request. He would play it, but only under protest. The song was “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love, Love the One You’re With.” Tom agreed it was a pretty song, but he hated the message. His admiration for fidelity was such that he could only play that song as a special courtesy.

    Semper fi, old Marine.

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  15. There is some great audio bits on the Star Tribune obit page from Dale and Jim Ed so listen to those! My favorite memory is when I first met him at PHC and he did the sound of an out of control wheelchair (since I use a wheelchair).
    Aaron

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    1. Thanks for telling us about that special memory, Aaron. I would like to have heard Tom do the out of control wheelchair sound.

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  16. Thanks, Dale, for bringing a smile to my face in this time of sadness. What a gentle, mysterious man Tom was! What a pleasure to work with him for more than a decade and to be his fan for a lifetime.

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    1. Hi Ann,
      Nice to see your name on Trail Baboon, in spite of the sadness.
      Trust you are well.
      Cynthia at MPR Duluth

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  17. My favorite memory was a bit at the Fitz during the height of River Dance. He stood behind a TV monitor with a fancy shirt and headband and “fake” danced to the R.D. music.

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    1. That was a classic Tom moment. I was working with Tom and Dale at the time. That was the show that featured Connie Dover as the main musician. Dale couldn’t get any Irish step dancers to agree to having their legs videoed doing the dance. So, DC did it in his basement. Tom found the outfit by borrowing a gold lame blouse from Beth Gilleland, and tying a skinny leather tie around his head. In the rehearsals the day before we did it about 5 times. Tom hit his mark each time, changing it ever so subtly and getting the whole house to the point where we couldn’t breathe anymore from laughter. And that was only one instance!

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      1. I was there, too, and I’ve retold that story countless times. One of the funniest bite I’ve ever seen! Tom’s passing brings up all the grief of missing the Morning Show. I can’t believe how big an impact he and the Morning Show made on me and so many others. May the angels lead him into paradise…

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  18. I’m wondering if Dale gave out candy last night, to the 500 kids he gets. I bet he did.
    Merman alerts, Genway foods, Tony Bennett, Bubby, “talking” birds of all sorts saying all sorts of things, etc.
    I’ll watch the PHC movie tonight.

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    1. My last post and then off on my bike and some un-fun things:
      The first time I heard Billy Marty Barry, the name and intro by Dale and then the voice, I thought what a genius he was at human voices, BMB was spot on right from the first. Funny and gently satirical.

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  19. I can’t think of one specific memory either–I enjoyed the music choices on the Morning Show, but it was the skits (in all their variety) that made the show so wonderful. The only way I could ever be made to pay attention to sports news was to hear it read by “Mr. Sports, Mr. Action, Mr. Jim Ed Poole”! TLGMS also did the best Halloween shows ever. I heard of his passing from my roommate yesterday evening–what an awful shock!–and was able to remember him at my altar last night for Samhain (I don’t know what his beliefs were, but I hope he’d be cool with that). I’m so sorry that Dale has lost a longtime friend and collaborator, that we’ve all lost a brilliant entertainer and keeper of a faded tradition of live sound effects, and that his family has lost a beloved brother, husband and uncle far too soon. He’ll be remembered with the greatest fondness.

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    1. I always knew it was time to leave for school when “Mr. Sports, Mr. Action, Mr. Jim Ed Poole!” came on the radio. We would listen to the Morning Show every morning. I loved all the characters, voices, and sounds. I especially liked the music requests. Some would crack me up. I’ll listen to “Little Potato” today in your memory, Jim Ed (I can’t listen to “You are my Sunshine” – I’ll cry. This way I can smile and remember the better times). Thank you Dale, for the wonderful words. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

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      1. i was concerned that all the past blogmates had moved on and left but it takes a funeral to get together with friends and family. nice to see all the old virutal family back for a quick visit. i love tgith’s recall of the details gone by. i came in too late to get to know him well. nils elinor mike cynthias abound, thrykas and at long last alanna, welcome back friends. a little song a little dance a little seltzer down your pants. in memory of jim ed

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      2. Thanks tim :) I’ve missed reading the blog everyday. I’ve been unemployed since February, so the only time I was on the computer really was to apply for more jobs. I’ve since moved home and am working a temporary job, which isn’t anywhere near a computer. Kai is doing well. He’s mellowed out some, but still gets super excited to see people. I wish it hadn’t taken a death to bring me back, but I really needed to share my memories with those who would understand. Thank you all!

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      3. february is a long time but these are challenging days, no place for the faint of heart. good luck in your finding a vessel for your talents. i encourage you to think outside the box. stop back in soon.

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    2. I remember when I first started listening to the Morning Show — 1984-ish, at Concordia in Moorhead. Whenever I heard the theme music and the introduction to “Mr. Jim! Ed! Poole!” I’d turn the radio off, thinking it was transitioning to some sports show. I can only imagine what fun I missed by doing that!

      I moved out of the area several years ago, and would occasionally listen to the show online, just for a fix. Commercial radio just isn’t the same…the Morning Show was such a quiet, gentle, Minnesotan way to start the day.

      RIP Tom Keith, and my condolences to your family and to Dale Connelly. Thank you for all those great years.

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  20. I did love the sound he did for Ora-flakes, the cooing mouth pigeons, cracked me up every time. But my favorites were that cackle of Dr. Larry Kyle, and his logical sounding explanations of how the DNA had been just a little altered to create something much more wonderful…
    and the Sherpa, the Mountain on Wheels. Brrrrrmmmm….. screeeeechhh.

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  21. Good morning to all,

    I heard that Tom Kieth had passed away while driving to pick up Krista and go to Mankato to visit with Clyde. I had an immediate sense of a great loss that others have mentioned. Tom was not at all directly involved in creating Trial Baboon or Trail Baboon that has brought together the paticipants on the Trail. However, due to his many years as a great partner to Dale I’m sure he is very well know by practically everyone on the Trail. I think most or all of us can hear his voice in our heads when Captain Billy or one of the other characters that Tom portrayed on The Morning Show makes a visit to the Trail.

    Dale mentioned that Tom was very Minnesotan in the best way. I think our gathering at Clyde’s house was also sort of a very Minnesotan thing and a fitting thing to be doing on the day that we heard that Tom had passed away. Thank you for hosting the meeting, Clyde, and thank you, Krista, for taking time off from your job to participate in the gathering.

    The list of characters that Tom gave voice to on the Morning Show is very long and I liked all of them. One that was done many years ago that I especially liked was the voice of Jim from Jim’s Weather Bunker. I think I especially liked that character because my name was Jim. I know there were some things that Tom did that I thought were especially funny, but I can’t recall any particular one. I was most empressed by the great number of different voices and sound effects he created that were all very, very, humorous

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  22. I remember being at the live State Fair shows. Tom’s knees would rarely stop bouncing in time with the music, live or otherwise. And he always had this kind of placid smile, like he was really enjoying himself but, being a pro, needed to keep it under control.

    Let’s also not forget his constant fight with the ‘Merman Alert’ to get it to work correctly. He was always banging on it to get it to start or shut off.

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  23. I started listening to the Morning Show in the early days when I was at Luther College, lost track of it during the years of my misspent early adulthood in the wilds of Wisconsin and the East Coast, and finally got back to it as a mother in St Paul. The Morning Show was my equivelent of my dad going down to the cafe in the early morning on the way to get the mail and have a cup of coffee with the other guys. It was where I found out what kind of day it was going to be as the news and sports were delivered in way that gave me just enough information to consider myself “informed” without wearing me out.

    Favorites were, of course, Bubby Spamdan, a cautionary tale to young boys on their way to men everywhere. It wasn’t just the voice (which was wonderful), it was that combination of sophmoric seriousness, backed by unflinching entitlement that I suspect most of us remember in ourselves (if we choose to look that hard).

    And Nephew Thomas always made me smile. Radio Daredevil stuntman-what an impossible career he had, but he made the most of each breath-taking stunt. I loved it when you got the feeling that Tom was just responding to whatever the narration was telling him, and sometimes, it threw him a curve-ball in mid-stunt.

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  24. My roommate posted a personal memory on Facebook: she and Tom were both at MPR waiting for recording studios to clear–she didn’t know who he was because she’d never seen a photo or a live performance of PHC. She held a door for him, saying “After you.” He turned to her and said, “Your voice sounds familiar,” whereupon she said, “YOUR voice sounds familiar!” and they chatted a moment or two before she went in to record a commentary. It was only later that she realized exactly who she’d been talking to; she’s from Michigan and though she wasn’t familiar with TLGMS she’d listened to PHC for years before she moved here (she was appalled when she realized that PHC’s jokes about Minnesota winters were no exaggeration).

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  25. I’m at a loss for words with so many fond memories of Tom/Jim Edswirling in my brain. Loved his characters: Dr. Larry Kyle, B. Marty Berry, Bart the bear, Wally Mostel, the Intimida dealer; Bubby, Loomis Beachley, et al. My fave by a mile was Cap’n Billy of the Muskellunge. “Ain’t that right, boys?” (cue the angry crowd of men ready to board a merchant ship at the drop of a cutlass blade!) I must have heard him do that bit a thousand times, and I laughed as hard the last time as I did the first.

    I thought his general disdain for reporting the sports news was so unintentionally hilarious at times, but I’m still not sure he disdained the sports on purpose. If he did, that was understated brilliance, and a subtle dig at our sports-obsessed culture.

    But sometimes less is more, so I wrote this haiku. Sums up my feelings about Tom Keith.

    Tom Keith/Jim Ed Poole
    Quiet humble excellence
    All that needs saying

    Chris in Owatonna

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  26. Thank you for the wonderful tribute, Dale. You really said it all.

    I loved the mouth pigeons (Ora Flakes), Dr. Larry Kyle, Intimida Sherpa and Cap’n Billy. The mouth pigeons almost caused a car accident one morning because I was laughing so hard while driving that my eyes were watering. I had to pull over until the skit was done and I could recover. My eyes are watering now too, but it’s different.

    The magic you worked together was amazing, Dale. You have the gift of creation and Tom had the gift to make it all seem real. It was your gift to us and I can’t ever thank you enough.

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  27. I was heartbroken when The Morning Show went off the air. It was my reason to wake up every weekday, as I knew that, no matter what else was happening in the world or in my life, Jim Ed and Dale would without fail provide a couple of hours of great music and whimsical humor. Jim Ed could be funny and poke fun without ever being cruel. And, boy, could he make me laugh! I never met Tom Keith but he was a big part of my life for many, many years. At the risk of expressing something too close to a sentimentality Tom Keith probably would “pshaw” at–the sad, empty space where the Morning Show used to be just got a whole lot bigger.

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  28. Greetings, my friends! Oh my, what fun memories for such a dear, sweet and highly talented man. My favorites were probably Dr. Larry kyle and Captain Billy, but I loved all the characters he and Dale brought to life. I’m still kicking myself for not ever going to a PHC performance or a Morning Show live broadcast because of work or just not liking to drive an hour to get anywhere. But I will cherish the memories of laughing uproariously early in the morning, crying during the final broadcast and hold dear my DVDs of the PHC movie and the final broadcast of Morning Show.

    I never met him, but I am very saddened and stunned by his death and my heart goes out to his family and friends. One final loon call to a master of sound effects, a chameleon voice and a proud Minnesotan who knew how to channel his inner wackiness.

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  29. What a magnificent and touching tribute, thank you Dale!

    I watched the clip from St Olaf last night (what a gift!), and was thinking about what you said about the power of radio to create images in your mind…. although I only met Tom once, very briefly, because of the power of radio I really came to know him (and you) in an extraordinary way.

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  30. One of my favorites: making Dale laugh during a skit, so you’d know he had either just ad-libbed something, or was even funnier than Dale had anticipated. Bowser of the Vibrating Dog Bed comes to mind, how he could get into this dog’s mind and sort of moan and sigh with the pleasure of the vibration…

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  31. The thing I take away from this is the fact that his last appearance was to teach the younger generation his dying art. So I think that was a fitting way to end it all I guess.

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    1. Having a small cold, and this being a hard time is making my posts not really coherent, so just forgive me! Or try to!

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      1. very nice to see you back aaron, last time i saw tom i saw you at the mpr open house. good memories. hope the new computer is working out well for you.

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  32. So very sad today. Deppest condolences to you, Dale, and thank you for your heartfelt memorial to Jim Ed. Thanks also to all of you who are sharing your memories. Feel grateful to have been on the recieving end of such wonderful creative expression for so many years. I think Jim Ed was not only the master of sound effects, but also non-sound effects; that is, his timing was amazing. I recall a skit where Dale was trying to reach Loomis Beachley ( I think), congressman from Minnesota’s imaginary 9th district representing all the water surface area of Minnesota. He was trying to reach the congressman via walkie-talkies , but no one was answering. I could sense Dale was a little perplexed at the ‘non-answering’ that was happening, when Jim Ed came on the walkie-talkie, mid-sentence with a scracthy sounding bad connection. Brilliant. So missing Jim Ed right now.

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  33. I think Dale’s line above sums it up for me: “Though he spent most of his adult life in radio, Tom Keith was, at heart, an illustrator.” In everything I read above (and remember from the radio), it reminds me that Mr. Keith created people, things, animals and places in our minds and hearts.

    And whenever someone talks too loudly on a cell phone at a public event with nothing to say, I think of him. And you too, Dale. So sorry for the loss of your good friend. We remember a public personality; you remember a co-worker and friend. I hope you can find some space in private to grieve such a loss.

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  34. Like many, I was a listener to the Garrison & Jim Ed Morning Show, mourned the loss when the show stopped after Garrison left, rejoiced when Dale & Jim Ed resurrected it, cried when MPR announced it was cancelled, frantically taped shows to savor after, then rejoiced again when MPR relented. Then I started working for MPR, I remember the first time I called Tom with a listener question and how startled, but thrilled when he answered “Jim Ed.” How sweet it was to know I was getting to work in the same company as my idols.

    Mourning the loss of Tom/Jim Ed brings back mourning the Morning Show. Thank you, Tom/Jim Ed (and Dale and Garrison) for wonderful memories and laughter.

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  35. In Fall of ’91, PHC’s stepbrother, American Radio Company had returned to the then World Theater. A sound effects competition was announced so I made an audition tape and mailed it to MPR. Ironically, most of those effects had been learned from Fred Newman’s first edition of Mouth Sounds. I had seen him on the David Letterman Show and had his book and record out of the library many times.

    I got a call one afternoon from Stevie Beck letting me know I was selected and where and when to be there. So I dutifully arrived on a Saturday afternoon. The other contestant was a St. Paul school teacher and we were actually the only two people to submit tapes for the contest. We were introduced to Mr. Keillor onstage. A brief sound check followed and we were then ready to have a little supper with the cast and crew and wait for the show to begin.

    Tom was a marvelous host, helping us to feel at home when he was not required onstage. One of the running gags at that time was his poor imitation of an elephant, which sounded a little like an elephant with a bad case of allergic rhinitis. Tom actually had trouble with that sound, which I had learned to do years ago from a friend in college. I think playing a brass instrument, trombone, may have helped.

    That was not the only time I had met him in person though. The Sherlockian group: The Norwegian Explorers put on several “radio” shows due to the collection of Edit Meiser scripts possessed by the UofM libraries. Tom appeared as the SFX man for couple of these and was always gracious and courteous when working with the amateurs.

    Together, Tom and Dale helped our family celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries for the better part of twenty years. The finale of the Morning Show was made slightly less tragic by the start of Radio Heartland. Our Christmas gift that year was a Digital clock radio, which never even made to being wrapped or under the tree. Alas, Dale’s show was cancelled and we listen to the Classical music station now because it at least has a human voice now and then.

    We will miss you Tom. I count myself lucky for having heard you so often on the radio, seen you in person, and worked with you briefly, up close.

    Au revoir.

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  36. We’ve not only lost the irreplaceable Jim Ed, but also Bud Buck, Dr. Larry Kyle, Bart The Bear, Bubby Spamden and Safety Officer Rafferty. I’ve been in tears all day. Even though I never met him, I feel like I’ve lost my good friend. I keep thinking back to one of the state fair Morning Shows when he was mouthing the words to the song “Happy”, about the woman calling her dog named Happy. Not sure why that one experience sticks in my head.

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    1. That is such a wonderful song! I always loved it. It seemed like it was over seconds after it started, but it always left me with a great big smile.

      “Happy! Come home! Happy! Come home!”

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    1. I kept it together until “Over the Rainbow” at the end…but only just barely. Love that version of “Over the Rainbow” – so fitting for this particular occasion in so many ways.

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    2. Same here for both the intro and ending songs on Midday. Nan, was that you calling in on the Midday show with your comments/memories? Still teary-eyed.

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      1. Is there only one Nan on here? It wasn’t me that called in; I was listening though—also teary. The songs were great/painful/joyful, I wanted more. I even looked up Icky, Yucky Sushi on UTube—it wasn’t the same version though. Glad to have this blog to share thoughts.

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      2. I’m hoping to be able to listen to that later. I got an email from Jon McTaggart with lots of great links at the bottom.

        I just now realized that on Sunday afternoon, my 12-year-old requested that we put on our (slightly unreliable) copy of the Best of Keepers. He said he especially liked The Bristlecone Pine. Seems so fitting that we did that after the fact.

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      3. Bristlecone Pine is the main reason I snapped up one of the copies of the Keepers CD (I think I wound up with two different Keepers CDs that have it) – love that song. And very appropriate now.

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  37. Thank you for giving us a place to share our grief. I called with what, on reflection, was a dumb question, and Tom was very gracious with his time and is reply. My favorite memories are of the wonderful Holiday shows, when Dale seemed to write these impossible scripts, and Tom pulled out every voice and sound effect on cue. I think that I’ll listen to one tonight.

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  38. Thank you, Dale, for writing this lovely tribute. I was just heart-sick after hearing the sad news last night, and have been rather lost and sour ever since. This made me tear up again, and I guess that is good. Sharing this with others helps, a little.
    Thanks Tom, for all the sounds and laughs and memories.

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  39. Like so many here, I clung to the Morning Show as though it was mine alone, the secret friends who shared my quirky sense of humor and could send me into hysterical laughter that was hard to stop. Jim Ed was really the unsung hero of that show and A Prairie Home Companion. We all knew he was the heart, even if he didn’t get the publicity. I can’t believe he’s gone, because his voice is still in my head. What a treasure of a man! I’m so glad I will always have memories of his
    sound effects and Captain Billy.

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  40. Also just listened to the midday show. Lovely. But even before that I was sitting at my desk with tears rolling down my cheeks as they played first Peter Ostrouska’s You are My Sunshine from the final Morning Show followed by Neal and Leandra’s Beautiful Goodbye on Radio Heartland. Sigh……

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    1. I was listening to that too! Can’t really express what the morning show meant to me—nothing harsh, just gentle, thoughtful, and hilarious in relaxing waves…

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        1. haha. yes, but then there was that warning—to signal a little rougher wave ahead. Really, I just trusted Dale and Jim Ed with my morning hours. Now, this is rough…

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  41. I knew your thoughts would be the ones that would make me cry. Thinking of you and all who knew him well ’cause those of us who only knew he voice and sounds are quite saddened.

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  42. Dale – Thank you. I’m so saddened by Tom’s passing . . . the two of you together were such a part of my morning ritual for years – even here in Milwaukee w/the advent of internet simulcasts. And you were the part of the lives of others I’ve loved that are also gone. Thanks for the memories. My condolences on the loss of your workmate and friend.

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  43. I grew up listening to the Morning Program….started listening when Garrison was the host. I managed to listen to most of every program over the years. I was so sad when MPR cut the program, and now Tom’s death just makes things so permanent. I’m glad for this blog, it helps a bit.

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  44. (Compiled from this blog the last day and a half -)
    Farewell, voice of:
    Mr. Sports, Mr. Action, Mr. Jim Ed Poole
    Mouth pigeons, loon calls, and innumerable other birds and animals, esp.
    Dr. Larry Kyle
    Bubby Spamden
    Cap’n Billy of the Muskelon
    Billy Marty Barry
    Nephew Thomas, Radio Daredevil
    Don DeCoyne
    Wally Mostel, Intimida Sherpa
    “Tony Bennett”
    Mel Lightener
    Merman Alert
    Bowser of the Vibrating Dog Bed
    Bart the Bear
    Loomis Beechley
    Bud Buck (Thhiissss is Bud Buck)
    Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty

    Fortunately, the words of these characters still appear here sometimes on this blog, thanks to the host. Every time they appear here, we will remember The Voice that embodied them.

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  45. I remember when Jim Ed tore a phone book in two on TLGMS. That doesn’t sound very funny, but it was very funny after all the wacky conversation Dale and Jim Ed had before the tearing.

    All those characters: Mel Lightener (sp?) and Cap’n Billy were two of my favorites. And just the banter between Dale and Jim Ed would make my day a little happier.

    Somebody who called into the Midday show today, referring to The Morning Show, said how wonderful it was to wake up in the morning laughing. I wish I could replay TLGMS as my alarm clock so I could do that again. It would sure beat waking to my alarm clock and groaning when I wake up like I do now.

    Not only did TLGMS give us good music and one-of-a-kind humor, but both of the hosts made you feel like they cared about you, the listener, by playing requests and often making a big deal of them. The world can seem so cold and impersonal and they were warm and friendly.

    Thanks, Jim Ed, and Godspeed.

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  46. Early in the incarnation of Mel Lightener, (in the 1980s) Mel was offering a CD of songs customized to your name. When he sang MY NAME as the example, I had to pull off the road on my commute, I was laughing so hard. To the tune of “H-A-double R-I-G-A-N spells Harrigan,” Mel Lightener sang, “B-O-double N-I-E-E-E spells Bonnie.”
    Thank you, Tom Keith. Thirty years later, we are all still laughing with your delightful sense of humor. We will never forget you.

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  47. Aw, this is beautiful Dale. I hope it helped to write about your buddy. Mornings have simply never been the same for me, and now to know that Jim Ed Poole is no longer among us makes my heart ache all the more. But not so much as yours, I’m sure. Warm wishes and tender hugs to you.

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  48. [audio src="http://www.angelfire.com/film/cowboystarsounds/sounds/happytrails.wav" /]

    there are a few souls that come into our lives that are gentle kind funny bright and make a difference in our lives. more than we know until we realize they were with us too short a time. it never dawns on you they may be gone in an instant although we all know that is a possibility we have to deal with. i believed that getting pets would ease the pain of losing a loved one because it isn’t really like losing a family member, well i have been proven wrong a number of times. the hardest cry of my life was when my dog died. that special one who was with me form age 16 through 33. man o man, you have a special love for that constant companion who was always there for you. well jim ed was kind of like that, jim henson was kind of like that too. jim ed was a family member in the same way a loving friend who is there for you. you got to know a lot about the team of dale and jim ed daily but when jim ed was alone you get to figure out which half was which. jim ed picked out interesting music. his love of the trombone made him special. his love of the guys who end in i, the world music he found and played for us that must have come from obscure places. the skits were priceless. you could sense how much fun he was having bringing the charachter to life for us. i wasn’t around until the mid 80’s. so dale and jim ed are all i knew. my kids grew up listening in the bathtub and getting ready for school every day. we would do bathtub dancing to the tunes everyday, little potato dancing with bears, the mix of classical with morning show classics shaped the 20 something kids in a way the new 10-12 year olds just will never get. my sticking a puccini on is not the same as jim ed.. officer rafferty would come on and be very upset with them for doing bathtub dancing and would sternly repromand them. thye would almost cry and i would laugh and tell them we were going ot live on the wild side and officer rafferty could not tell us not to dance to our favorite music. and they would do the snoopy dance to i feel good, bop til you drop and day-o thanks to the boys. billy marty barry, dr kyle, tony bennet, bubby, senator, the sports reports, the team was a single unit and while we knew they were seperate people they are forever intertwined ad while we still have dale he will never again be complete without a reference to jim ed. they will live on as if joined at the hip. dale has become a good friend and a special part of our lives here on the blog and we have to thank him for our connection to the past we all love to live in for as long as we can. it just got harder. thanks to tom keith for making our lives better by starting each day on a positive note. we still got the news but we went away smiling. people who start their day reading the paper, watching the network news have scowls and a drive to work with a sour taste. those of us who had a daily start with dale and jim ed had a different experience didn’t we. thanks jim ed. keep it up dale we need you now more than ever. http://www.angelfire.com/film/cowboystarsounds/sounds/happytrails.wav

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  49. With age comes more and more loss. I was a latecomer to The Morning Show and best remember Tom Keith as his alter-ego Jim Ed Poole. My favorite character of his was Captain Billy of the Muskellunge. Ain’t that right boys? (cue sounds a pirate-y agreement).

    Thanks Mr. Keith. Rest in peace.

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  50. Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of when I pledged allegiance to Jim Ed. I still remember the traffic light where I was waiting when he announced, “Today is All Souls’ Day” and they he hit the button and played an Aretha Franklin anthem.

    Now Tom is one of the souls, but my pledge remains .

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  51. Late to post – parent teacher conferences. I tried to get out of them – honest I did – but apparently I live in the wrong state to have an absence excused for a virtual wake.

    A few of Jim Ed’s comments I remember:
    Steve Earle’s former wife used to say he was a hard dog to keep under the porch.
    Onions don’t agree with me.
    A very sad song. (after playing, In Heaven There Is No Beer)
    Uh, YEAH – I’ll accept that. (after giving the day’s weather forecast)
    So and so wrote in to say I’d mispronounced chi-pot-ul.
    I love Mary Martin.

    Beautiful sentiments today. God, weren’t we lucky to have been Tom Keith’s listeners!

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  52. I did a one-month internship with MPR in January of 1978. On the second or third day, Tom Keith introduced himself and asked what I was doing. I explained my project and he asked me lots of questions about it and showed a sincere interest in me. I asked him what he did at the station and he said that he was interested in sound and figuring out why things sounded the way they did. He was so kind and friendly and welcoming. My sympathies to his friends and family.

    By the way, Dale, you were kind and friendly and welcoming, too.

    Kent Kluver

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  53. One particularly good laugh came unintentionally, I believe, when Tom/Jim Ed announced that the next song would be played by Slaid Cleaves. But he was having a dyslexic moment and pronounced his name “Clayed Sleeves”. When BOTH Dale and Jim Ed were laughing to the point of not speaking, with Mike in the background, it was impossible not to laugh just as hard at home. My daughter wandered in about that time and asked me what I was laughing at, and all I could do was start laughing all over again.
    The death of Tom Keith makes me feel the loss of the morning show all over again. Painful. He was wonderful.

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    1. tough stuff hang in there pj its difficult to wrap your brain around a new world isn’t it? it is interesting how we live in complete awarness that it is part of the deal to die but never think it will happen and are lost ot make sense of it when it happens. i will never get used to it but clyde and the pastors of the world out there who have congregations that doubtless will experience the same loss and the same pain and the same unyielding gnashing of teeth must have a different perspective on the transition from numb to post numb. tom keith was one of the great ones and he lived well. what a shame to see it come to an end. i hope his wife and family find some peace in knowing how many lives he touched and how much he was loved. good night sweet prince.

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  54. Dale, I just wanted to personally thank you for the Morning Show and let you know how sorry I am about Tom’s death. I only listened to the Morning Show for the last two years that it was on, and I’m only 19, but one of my fondest memories was when me and my parents woke up at 3am and sat in the Minnesotan sub-zero weather for an hour to be there at the last recording of the Morning Show. I can’t truly put that morning into words that would give it the credit it deserves, so for that I thank you.

    Tom and you taught me that it’s nearly impossible for you to have a bad day when you start it off with a laugh in the morning.

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  55. How nice to hear from the younger generation, Ryan. How lucky you were to have those two years. It is sad that so many people in generations to come will never experience the special joy that was the Morning Show. Just like when the Beatles broke up, there was always the infinitesimal hope (in my mind) that Dale and Jim Ed would somehow get another Morning Show together, when Jim Ed got tired of retirement. Many tears have been shed today.

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  56. I’m a classical music person, but I still am adjusting to KLSE without the morning show. So much easier to get up to the Sons of the Pioneers than to Bach’s Sleepers Awake. And Jim Ed/Tom could always make me laugh . . . sometimes, I had to pull over to the side of the road to recover if I was driving to work. Loved the Tony Bennett impersonations and Buddy the perennial sophomore, but Capn Billy was just the best. I’ll never forget how he tried to convince Dale, after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl halftime, that he and his “boys” were tuned to an airing of Anne of Green Gables and never saw the incident in question. Huh! I shared the previous writer’s hope that Tom would come out of retirement and come back to broadcasting with Dale. Miss his irreverent view of sports too.

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  57. Dale, when I think how sad we all are it gives me the smallest inkling of how hard this loss is, and will be, for you. A dear friend and neighbor of ours died suddenly earlier this year, so I know something about the shock and disbelief, and having to re-remember every morning that he is gone.
    Two thoughts have helped me. I pass them on for what they might be worth.

    Thought #1, from Wendell Berry: We had what we’ve lost.
    The two of you made magic together over and over. You rescued mornings from darkness and even despair. I was always guaranteed at least a smile and usually a laugh as I listened on my way to work. And not just from the skits and the interplay and the song introductions, but also from the sly little things you two worked in. I remember laughing out loud one morning when I realized that you were playing the third straight song about a snake. A snake song set? Who else would think of it? Best of all, neither of you said anything about it. Just stuck it in there to see who was paying attention. You two truly improved the quality of countless lives.

    Thought #2, from the song For Good (from the musical Wicked): Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
    I played this song over and over again during the weeks following my friend’s sudden death. It helped me focus on the gifts he gave me, gifts of experience and laughter and good times and shared jokes that I still have. Because we Morning Show devotees felt that we knew you and “Jim Ed”, we have indeed been changed for good. I’ve been thinking about how precious the ability to make someone laugh is. It makes you forget worries about future or regrets about past and brings you right into now in a positive way.
    Wonderful music acts in a similar way, especially a new song. I remember sitting in the parking lot at work one morning, crying because a song you two had played was so beautiful and touching. Music was your shared gift the morning of September 11th. You were giving updates but also playing every hopeful, calming, encouraging song you could think of to help us all hold against the fear or that dark morning.
    You and Tom gave us both music and laughter. And companionship. An unforgettable trio of gifts, given so freely for so many years. Thank you so very much. Tom is gone, but we had him. And we all have been changed for good.

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  58. Wonderfully written Dale. I believe I will listen to some Carol King on my long commute home tonight. Thanks to Tom for the laughs, kindness & understated wisdom.

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  59. Together you and Tom were the best ever. Hands down. As a team, you were my radio heroes. Yoru were my teachers and my favorite colleagues. I missed you both so much when you left, but now… oh dear.

    Peace to you and…to Tom.

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  60. Dale I’m listening to the tribute (missed it yesterday) – my condolences to you and your colleagues, a huge loss for you and for all of us who loved to listen to Tom. Thank you for all of your sweet remembrances, makes it all a little bit easier to swallow.

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  61. I can’t help but smile at a bit you two did probably in the early 1980s with the premise: “What if — dogs could talk …” and “What if — babies could fly …”
    Sweet, gentle, funny in a smart way.
    Thanks for everything Jim Ed; and Dale equal thanks you too.

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  62. Here is Tom’s obituary from the newspaper.

    “Tom” Age 64 Tom was a well-known and beloved Minnesota Public Radio and Prairie Home Companion performer for 40 years. He passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, October 30. Tom grew up in West St. Paul. He joined the Marine Corps in 1965, completed four years of service, then received a degree in Speech and Broadcasting from the University of Minnesota in 1972. His first job was as a broadcast engineer on Garrison Keillor’s new Morning Show. He began doing sound effects for the Morning Show but became a sound effects maestro during his years on the Prairie Home Companion. For 30 years Tom and Dale Connelly created a delightful alternative universe on their MPR Morning Show. He is survived by his loving wife Ri Wei Liu-Keith, his twin sister Terry Keith Green of Woodbury, his brothers Jeffrey (Cari), Wilton, WI, David (Noel), Syracuse, NY and James Green; nieces, Shelly (Dan) Peschel, Rosalind Keith, Katie (Ryan) Kavanaugh; nephews, Fred (Susan), Will Green, Peter (Holly), Joe Green, Douglas (Emily), Peter (Rachel), Gregory (Kelly). He was predeceased by his parents Elizabeth Doig Keith (1998) and James Keith (2000). There will be a private family service and interment at Acacia Cemetery Friday morning. Family and friends are invited to a Private Memorial Service Friday 1pm at the Woodbury Lutheran Church, 7380 Afton Road, Woodbury, with visitation one hour prior. On Saturday, November 12 at 5:00 PM friends and colleagues of Tom Keith will be putting on a Tribute Show at the Fitzgerald Theater. More information will be forthcoming. Memorials may be sent to charities of your preference in memory of Thomas Keith. WULFF WOODBURY 651-738-9615

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  63. Growing up in St. Paul long before MPR existed, I was an avid listener to all the gang at WCCO, including, of course, Boone and Erickson. When MPR finally set up a station in Thief River, I could get its programming here in Grand Forks. The Morning Show came in on the Classical station and I listened to it every day. Its eclectic music, skits, and repartee started the day off for me. Mr. Connelly, please accept my most sincere sympathy on the loss of your colleague and friend. As Schiller said: “Auch ein Klaglied zu sein im Mund der Geliebten ist Herrlich.” I very much lament Mr. Keith’s passing.

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  64. A favorite story? Too many to choose from. Except, perhaps, his deadpan expression as he made sounds to accompany Dusty and Lefty’s song in the PHC movie, much to the stage manager’s chagrin. As Ann Reed sang on the final Morning Show: Coffee Tasted Better (when you were here). Thanks to both Tom and Dale for so many great mornings.

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  65. It’s been a week since the MPR community lost it’s good friend Tom Keith. And if his family is able to read these posts, I hope they can accept the love we all felt for Tom. thank God that MPR has digitally stored this so it is a permanent archive.

    I was at a Current live broadcast on Friday and couldn’t help thinking how this art form moves on. it’s good to have the past to appreciate how it makes the new possible.

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  66. Dale,
    My favorite memory of Tom Keith is the lasting legacy that the The Morning Show has left on my musical repertoire, and how much you and Jim Ed contributed to my CD collection. Of all of my music, I the ones I appreciate the most have roots in The Morning Show: not only the Keepers, but Lou & Peter Berryman, Cathy Fink/Marcy Marxer, Joyce Anderson/Harvey Reid, Hart-Rouge, etc.

    I clearly remember the day I was driving to work, listening to tactless drivel on KQRS, and thinking, “Why am I letting this garbage pollute my mind?” I hit a random preset that took me to the Morning Show — and I never listened to any other morning programming. Thank you so much for the years of entertainment and for opening up so many musical doors. I still miss the morning show and the chemistry you and Tom had, to the point that I rarely listen to the radio in the mornings.

    My sincere condolences for the loss of your colleague, collaborator and friend.

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    1. Your mention of music brings up a question I’ve had for some time. Years ago, The Morning Show played a piece which Dale simply called, I believe, “The Mother-In-Law Song.” It was absolutely hilarious, but I have never been able to find any info. Can anyone out there help?

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  67. Dale,
    My mornings have been ever so empty for the past three years. And now I am heartsick, as everyone here has expressed, about Tom’s death. Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your friend.

    As I have done many times in the past two years, I have been playing my CDs of the last broadcast of the Morning Show even more often this past week. If I time it right, I can make the 3 CD set last about 3 weeks of morning commutes. I’ve listened so many times, I have most of the gigs committed to memory. And of course, in the car, I sound exactly like most of the great singers.

    But I have a question. When I attended the show at the Fitz, I assumed all those farewells, all those songs and skits, were all about me and my sisterhood/fellowship of listeners. But after listening to the show’s opening this morning, I’m not so sure. When you asked Connie Evingson for those opening songs, was she really singing about you and Tom and your farewells to each other? If that wasn’t your intention, it sure seemed that way to me today.

    Your presence on the air in my mornings was a treasure. I’m so very grateful I had a chance to thank Tom in person earlier this year. I wish I could do the same for you now and tell you that in so many ways, Tom’s wit and graciousness lives on, at least in many fond memories and in all of his wonderful characters.

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  68. During The Morning Show years, listening to Dale and Jim Ed when I got ready for work made each day a better day for me. I am still so saddened by the sudden death of Tom Keith. Gone too early, but a lasting effect on so many lives.

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  69. I listened to the Morning show for 16 years just before going to work every weekday morning. It made my work day more bearable to have that shot of humor from you both. I was very sad when the show went off the air. Tom Keith will be greatly missed. God bless

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