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Remembrance: Frank Crowell

July 11, 2013

Frank Crowell with his son, Frankie
Frank Crowell had an actor's instinct but this time he exited the stage before his audience was prepared. When Frank passed away Monday it caught nearly everyone by surprise so we fear he never really understood just how special his contributions were to the city in general and to Vanderbilt in particular.

Many readers first met Frank in Vanderbilt Stadium back in 1981, the new and dynamic game day voice of a rising Commodore football program. There was a different sports scene in Nashville back then and George MacIntyre had Vanderbilt on the move.

With a renovated stadium on the near horizon, Roy Kramer was looking for just the right sound and found it in Crowell, who was doing the public address at the Iroquois Steeplechase and the Nashville Sounds.

Before I even interviewed at Vanderbilt word had spread to the Midwest about the terrific public address announcer who hyped fans into a frenzy with his innovative "Stand Up and Show...Your...Gold" directive as thousands of metallic gold shakers suddenly rose in unison.

Frank was one of the first people I met when I arrived in town a month before the 1983 football season. Frank emceed the annual Fan Day (now recast as Dore Jam) and I quickly learned that Frank's presence cast a marquee light on an event.

Frank invested countless hours in and around Vandy, mostly at games in Memorial Gym or Vanderbilt Stadium but also by attending weekly game management meetings in McGugin Center or reviewing plans at his 8th Avenue South office.

Like any skilled craftsman in Music City, his performance was a combination of God-given instincts and hard work. He understood what his client needed and then strived to make the abstract idea magically come to life. He made the ordinary seem unique and often took chicken feather scripts and turned them to chicken salad.

For 22 years, Frank set the stage for our big games, introducing Commodores from C.M. Newton and Barry Goheen to Eddie Fogler and Kevin Anglin to Jan van Breda Kolff and Drew Maddux to Kevin Stallings and Dan Langhi. On the gridiron, he urged fans to "Show...Your... Gold" while also calling attention to sky divers, car giveaways, special presentations at midfield and even narrating the band's halftime show.

He was so effective that a rival school athletic director actually introduced an SEC policy designed to limit not only what could be said over the public address but HOW it should be said. Some chuckled and called it the "Frank Crowell Rule" but more tried to copy him.

Frank would have been great company on a desert island - an upbeat man with many interests. He was the producer/director of the old Nashville Gridiron Show for years where local media spoofed the city's events and celebrities. He owned real estate but he spent a lot of his time working with a wide variety of quality organizations to maximize their fund-raisers. His company was called "The Main Event" for good reason.

Frank Crowell was a kind, compassionate and first-class Southern gentleman. He was an idea guy, an optimist with a ready smile and laugh - the kind of person you looked forward to seeing. No dad ever had more quiet pride in his kids, Mary Margaret and Frankie, who became a pilot. He always happened to have a picture of his grandkids handy.

It's a shame Frank exited the stage so quickly but he always left the audience wanting more, even if this time the audience was Nashville. It was his knack.

And perhaps today on a field in Valhalla, the legendary place where warriors who die as heroes in battle dwell eternally, Dan McGugin is getting ready to bring his Commodores onto the field, Fred Russell and Granny Rice are ready in the press box and Frank Crowell is waiting for exactly the right moment to exhort the massive crowd to "Stand Up and Show...Your...Gold" one more time.



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