When you talk about music in Birmingham, the name Ed Boutwell soars above all others. He was to Birmingham what Rick Hall was to Muscle Shoals. Ed founded Birmingham’s very first recording studio in 1951 in his basement. The studio would later move to its most well known location in English Village. Nearly every garage band in the area would record there at least once, when they decided to make a record. However, Boutwell says that you don’t make a lot of money on producing Rock and Roll records.
The studio depended heavily on advertising clients. Lots of commercial jingles were made there for companies like Jack’s Hamburgers and Pizitz. In addition to jingles, audio-posting (adding music and sound effects to pre-produced videos) and voice over work in the later years for various shows like CSI and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as movies, is where the company made most of its money.
Ed was directly involved in record producing until he sold the company in 1984. Boutwell Studios still goes today at its new location in the old Homewood Church of Christ building.
It’s hard to find a local record from the 60s without seeing Ed Boutwell’s name as ‘Producer.’
Besides his musical history, Ed was very instrumental in changing Birmingham’s city government structure and was directly connected to the civil rights struggles of the 60s.
In 1963, Ed was on a committee to change Birmingham’s city government to a mayor/council form. It succeeded. Ed’s uncle, Albert Boutwell, became Birmingham’s first mayor under the new government. Ed has said that he took a lot of the camera footage of the various civil rights conflicts (that we all have seen) in the city as a free-lance photographer for ABC News.
Boutwell Recording Studio still thrives today. Former Birmingham DJs, Courtney Haden and Greg Bass are involved with the ownership, although Haden died in 2017.
Ed Boutwell now lives in Shelby County and, believe it or not, never thought about saving the many recordings on tape that were made in the 50s thru the 80s at his studio. Unless you can find one of the records, the recordings are gone forever. Luckily, there ARE quite a few records out there.