The business was started in 1961 by WAPI engineer Ed Boutwell with his wife Fran in English Village. With success Boutwell moved the business to a series of progressively larger locations including a former church at 2nd Avenue North and 35th Street in North Avondale, then back to a larger space behind the original studio in English Village. In the early 1970s, Boutwell relocated to a production facility on 23rd Street near 7th Avenue South in Southside.
Since the beginning, Boutwell Studios has predominantly served the advertising industry. Boutwell and WAPI's Henry Kimbrell co-produced the famous 15-cent Jingle for Jack's Hamburgers. Other jingles were produced for Pizitz, Bromberg's, and Greg's Cookies. Boutwell was one of the first studios to offer stereo recording, and also attracted local bands for recording sessions, including the demo tracks that earned Tammy Wynette her break in Nashville. The Distortions album "Behind My Wall" was cut there, as well as much of the soundtrack for the film Stay Hungry. Other notable visitors have included the Allman Brothers (as the Allman Joys), Atlanta Rhythm Section (as the Candymen), Byron Berline, and Mason Williams.
In 1975 young radio DJ Greg Bass joined the firm as voice talent, but quickly found other facets of the business to which he could contribute. He became a partner and recruited former radio partner Courtney Haden to operate a second studio. Engineer Mark Harrelson, now technical director, became a partner in 1983. Ed's daughter Nancy became the sixth partner when her father retired in 1986.
Bass and Haden subsequently bought controlling interest in the company that year and secured a Small Business Administration loan to move the business to the former Homewood Church of Christ on Central Avenue and Mayfair Circle in Homewood. They completely overhauled the building, constructing new offices and five separate recording studios in the 12,000 square foot space, moving in in 1999.
Boutwell Studios have been regional pioneers in recording and production technology. They have led the way in video-synching, recording distant talent by digital phone, creating a dedicated multi-media audio facility, and monitoring and mixing 5.1 channel surround sound.
- Fournier, Rosalind (August 2006) "Sound Business" Savvy Business. Birmingham Magazine. Vol. 46, No. 8, p. 98-99.
- Haden, Courtney (August 16, 2007) "Ed's head: Ode to a record-breaking enthusiast." Birmingham Weekly
- Geiss, Chuck (October 27, 2011) "Naked Birmingham". Black & White
- Boutwell Studios website