Larry Crowell, 65, Retired Chemical and Electrical Engineer, “The Beer Hat Guy”

Photo with no caption

Where are you from?

I was born on the family farm in northeast Iowa. It was a typical family farm—cattle, pigs, chickens, various crops. It belonged to my grandmother and she sold it when I was 12. We then moved a few miles into Winthrop. The population was only about 700. It was definitely a farming town. When I was 18, I took off for Iowa State. I majored in chemical engineering and it took me a while to get through school. I graduated in 1969. The job market was different back then. When you went to college you never worried about finding a job. The job offers just poured in. We actually got to fly all over the country interviewing at different places. I eventually chose Alcoa in Pittsburgh, Penn. I started as an engineer, but factory automation was what I evolved into. It was the beginning of computerization and I had a talent for writing industrial software.

How did working for Alcoa eventually bring you here?

I quit Alcoa in 1977 and started my own consulting business. I worked for a variety of places helping with the automation industry. In 1985 I came down to Maryville to work as a consultant for Alcoa. I’d fly into Maryville on Monday, and fly back to Pittsburgh for the weekends. It turned out to be a long-term project, so I decided to move here and work as a regular employee until I retired in 2005. I bought a house on the lake out in Friendsville. At about that time, a girl I used to date in college got ahold of me. Shortly after that she moved down here. In the early ’90s we bought a house in Loudon. It’s on five acres and very secluded. Even though she and I split up in 2005, I still live in that house.

How did you become a fixture in the Knoxville music scene?

In 2005 I was jobless and womanless. I asked myself, “What am I going to do? I don’t want to be a hermit.” I started to realize that the people I thought were my friends were not my friends. I had never had a group of people that really accepted me for who I am. I am not religious, so church wasn’t an option. So I decided to take in the music scene. The more I did it the more I became a fixture. It’s what I do—I just took a roundabout path to get here.

You always have a beer hat on. How did that start?

Well, I’ve been wearing hats for years, but Preservation Pub threw a Mad Hatters party on April 1. It was more of a party for the regulars, I suppose. I remembered seeing a video somewhere about how to make a beer hat. My first attempt was pretty rough so I kept working on it. Eventually I had one I liked and wore it to the party. It was made out of PBR cases. People raved about it so I made another and another. I created this monster! I’m actually quite shy and introverted and the hat gives me some nice attention. So I think I’ll just ride the joke out as long as it lasts.

Do you have a life philosophy?

As an atheist, I believe that religion and morals are two separate things. I am morally conservative and self-reliant. We are all responsible for our own actions. I am fascinated with the origins of the universe. The more I study it the more I realize how ridiculous religion is. It’s dominated my thoughts lately. I don’t know what to do about it. Especially in Eastern Tennessee. I feel that as Earth, we are the Gary, Ind., of the intergalactic highway system.

Worn Clothing

Boots: Elliots, six years ago, $100

Belt: Mail-order catalog, 15-20 years ago, $30

Milwaukee’s Best Beer Hat: Made recently. How much does a case of beer cost? That’s how much I spent on it.

© 2010 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.