Ed Boutwell, Oral History


Ed Boutwell, Oral History


Ed Boutwell (b. June 21, 1937, d. January 25, 2023) founder of Boutwell Recording Studios in Birmingham, Alabama. Nephew of Albert Boutwell who was mayor of Birmingham from 1963 to 1967, Ed recounts numerous memories of growing up on Birmingham's southside and his initiation to the politics of the times as well as his illustrious career as both a radio man at WAPI and as owner of Boutwell Recording Studios.


Ed Boutwell
Bob Friedman


Birmingham Black Radio Museum


March 13, 2019


Mark Usry
Emily Bibb






Bob Friedman


Ed Boutwell


Transcription of audio snippet:

Bob Friedman: (laughs) Now you, did you told a story earlier about when Bull Connor was trying to whip up his support and went on radio to do a radio program and you recorded it and tell us a little bit that.

Ed Boutwell: Okay. It was a one hour program he had bought WAPI radio, and WSGN and WBRC were rebroadcasting it a long with it. It was all simulcasted.

BF: Mhm

EB: On those three stations. He blitzed Birmingham and in it, he cursed and acted like the very unfriendly person he was. And

BF: He called out the "N" word and the "J" word and he called and

EB: He used every bad, bad word he could have used.

BF: And what was the message?

EB: And the message was, you can't elect, Albert is a friend of the Jews and the Niggers and blah, blah, blah. Well that just affronted me somethin' terrible. And I was already workin' with Albert tryin' to make the transition to...

BF: Who made the change? Was that the courts? Was it simply the referendum made the change?

EB: The referendum.

BF: Mhm

EB: I believe.

BF: Mhm

EB: And the, but Bull was, ran against Albert for major. And Albert beat 'em handily. And

BF: So, was after the change of the form of government that then there was a race for mayor, right?

EB: Right, Albert ran against Bull...and Albert beat him handily

BF: Was it scary that race? Was there, were there threats?
EB: I got shot at. (laughs)

BF: That's a little bit about that

EB: In my little car.

BF: Yeah

EB: I had this little bitty Morris Minor.

BF: You had a Morris Minor!

EB: I loved that car

BF: One of the guys I sang with had a Morris Minor. I was the one who would drive it.

EB: Oh that was a great car!

BF: (laughs)

EB: I think 40 watts of power. (laughs)

BF: And it was such a tiny little thing.

EB: And, one day, one evening, I was down town and a car pulled up beside me and a guy stuck a gun out goin' out the back window of his car. I don't remember. I just remember what it looked like at the time.

BF: Yeah

EB: And I just floor boarded that little Morris and took off. And they were chasin'...and I got over to

BF: Where was, yeah.

EB: There was a White Temple.... was that the name of a restaurant downtown?

BF: Golden Temple?

EB: No. This was downtown Birmingham

BF: Yeah

EB: On North side. Over in the area where Frank Trexill business was. The ticket printing business over there. Anyway, I knew what I could do and I ran over to the, I think it was called The White Temple Restaurant and I ran up into their parking lot and waited for that car to come and he saw me and ran after me. He came over after me and shooting.

BF: Shooting

EB: Shooting. And I remember two gun shots and I ran out the alley. Our car was very narrow. Their car was very big and bad (laughs). They couldn't chase me. And I went runnin' out that and went, I believe, I don't know where I lived at the time, but I hid.

BF: Yeah

EB: Think I lived over on Cobb Lane.

BF: Yeah

EB: So, anyway. That was, that was quite thrill.

BF: And you were identified at that point.

EB: Yeah. And I was a term red, and uh...

BF: So, you got wind about this show that Bull Connor was gonna do.

EB: Yes, so I went home.

BF: Does this happen after they shot at ya?

EB: Good luck with sequence

BF: Yeah. Right

EB: 'Round, yeah. Around the same time. And they shot at me and I just freaked out.

BF: Yeah

EB: When I had already figured out how to get away from 'em. I drove out through that little narrow alley. It was an alley built for a wagon.

BF: Sure

EB: Ya know. Horse and buggy. And I went out through it zoom! And, sorry about that, ashtray and can I ran over.

BF: (laughs)

EB: But, anyway. I went out and they couldn't get out and they had to stop and back up and come out and drive around and look for me.

BF: Yeah

EB: I was long gone

BF: Yeah

EB: So, that was a big thrill.

BF: Yeah. So here comes Bull on WAPI. What is

EB: And I recorded it and I took that thirty minutes or an hour long program

BF: Let me ask you a question. How did you record Bull off of your radio? Did you attach

EB: Put clip lead s across the speaker

BF: Okay

EB: And I picked it up at WAPI FM because I knew that was clean

BF: Yeah

EB: No compression and it was very, very clean

BF: Right

EB: Anyway, I took that tape. It was about an hour long, and I called Tommy Little who was heading PR for Uncle Albert. So this was all right in the middle of when Albert was runnin'

BF: Yeah

EB: And Tommy says, "Can ya edit it together?" (laughs). And he came over in about an hour and I was already editing on it in the studio. By then I had built Boutwell Studios in English Village and I edited that thing together with all those curse words and all that

BF: At 30 second? 60 second?

EB: I believe it was at least a 60 but I maybe wrong. But anyway, it was enough of blasphemy and hatred and just it galled me terrible, but I put it together. And there was just one curse word after another and Bull's voice. I mean you couldn't deny Bull's voice. There he was. And I had him put on the front of it. This is Bull Connor. And it ran for a minute and I made copies. We ran it everywhere we could around Birmingham.

BF: What was the disclaimer at the end?

EB: Paid for by friends of Albert Boutwell

BF: And were you able to get that on the air?

EB: I was sittin' there at WAPI's office the next mornin' with the tape and said, "Can you play this?" They said, "Yeah. We have to play it." It's equal, ya know, the equal time thing..I said, "Play this so many, any spots ya got and call me about the cost. I'll pay it

BF: Mhm

EB: And that went on to BRC and they didn't like it but they played it. Then I went to SGN and then McKinnon said, "Give me that thing!" And he played it and It ran for about three or four days before the election. And it made a difference, I believe in it, because it stirred everybody's conscious in town.

BF: Extraordinary

EB: It was very good. So, I was right in the middle of wonderful things.

BF: Mhm

EB: And I'm still at 82 almost, I'm still in the middle of wonderful things.

BF: You don't look a day over

EB: 79

BF: 79


Full interview: 68 minutes
Audio snippet: 6 minutes


Ed and Bob at Episcopal Place, Bham lobby - 3-19-2019.jpg
6 min clip.mp3


Ed Boutwell and Bob Friedman, “Ed Boutwell, Oral History,” The Birmingham Black Radio Museum, accessed July 24, 2024, https://thebbrm.org/item/547.

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