Soccer’s Tampa Bay Rowdies and Birmingham are forever connected by fight song

Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tampa Bay Rowdies
APRIL 27, 2019 – ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA: The Tampa Bay Rowdies match against Charlotte Independence at Al Lang Stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 tie. (Photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies)

On Saturday, June 1st, one of U.S. Soccer’s most legendary teams, the Tampa Bay Rowdies will be taking on the Birmingham Legion F.C. at BBVA Field on the campus of UAB.

Unbeknownst, to both USL teams – the Rowdies famous fight song “Kick in the Grass” was written about 45 years ago by Birmingham native Ed Boutwell, founder of Boutwell Studios and a resident of Episcopal Place.

First here is the latest audio version of the Rowdies “Kick in the Grass” courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

And for a vintage look – a rare YouTube version with Rowdies footage from the 70s or 80s.

How did Boutwell write the song?

Earlier this week, Bham Now sat down with Boutwell, who wrote the music and lyrics and Sonny Harris, a local drummer, who was one of the singers on the original piece.

Ed Boutwell with the Tampa Bay Rowdies song sheet
Ed Boutwell with the Tampa Bay Rowdies song sheet and picture of himself at a 1980 Tampa Bay Rowdies game. Photo by Pat Byington

How they came to write “Kick in the Grass”:

Boutwell’s best friend, Tommy Little, who was from Birmingham, worked for an ad agency in Atlanta, that had the Rowdies account back in the mid 1970s. According to Boutwell, Little called him to a do a jingle for the team at the very last minute.

So, Boutwell pulled his regular gang of musicians together that night at Boutwell Studios and worked till dawn to knock out the song.

“Many, many, many jingles were recorded in the middle of the night,” said Boutwell. “I’d run down to the bus station, put it (the recording) on the bus to Atlanta and Tommy would present it at meetings in the morning like he had written it.” Boutwell joked.

“Ed was a creative genius,” added Harris. I don’t remember anything we ever attempted that wasn’t right on the money, and so was this one (Rowdies song).”

Video of Ed Boutwell and  Sonny Harris singing the “A Kick in the Grass”

“I think everybody bought them (jingles) because I was so silly,” laughed Boutwell.  “I really think that because I was so silly everybody could laugh at what I was doing. It was great fun.”

On the Rowdies song, Boutwell admits, he didn’t know anything about soccer, but somehow from that all-nighter they created a song Rowdies fans still sing today.

Meeting Pele

Among all of Boutwell’s stories about his experience with the Rowdies, his most memorable was when he was thanked by the team at a Tampa Bay home game 5 years after he wrote the song.

Tampa Bay Rowdies
Original song sheet of “A Kick in the Grass” Tampa Bay Rowdies fight song. Photo by Pat Byington

That evening, he was honored alongside the world’s greatest soccer player, Pele.

Boutwell recounted their introduction, “Pele stands up in front of me and sings the jingle. I’m sitting there smiling like a goober. He came over and hugged me and said this is brilliant, this is great, in a very heavy accent.”

That evening, Boutwell and Pele rode in a convertible around the field at half-time.

“We had a ball, going around the field waving and waving. He (Pele) was singing the song at the top of his lungs,” Boutwell said.

A Generational Song

2018 United Way of Central Alabama Campaign Chairman, Alan Register delivering meals at the local Meals on Wheel program. Photo courtesy of United Way

For many, the Rowdies song is part of the soundtrack of their lives. In a 2018 Bham Now interview with Alan Register, Regions Bank Birmingham Market Executive, and Chair of the United Way of Central Alabama 2018 campaign, he sang the Rowdies jingle during the interview when he described growing up in the Tampa area.

When Bham Now asked about the song and the connection with his growing up as a young person, Register said, “When I talked to my mother about finding Rowdies memorabilia at our home, she said, ‘that was a pretty meaningful time in our lives wasn’t it?’ I said, yeah it really was. My dad worked for Coca-Cola and one of his accounts was Tampa Stadium. We went to all the Buccaneers and Rowdies games when I was growing up. So I was at Tampa Stadium all the time.”

Register added. “I never really played soccer, but it was so interesting to watch, and I’m so glad we did. I got to see Pele in person, Franz Beckenbauer, who played for the German National team that won the World Cup, and Rodney Marsh, who all played for the Rowdies. Got to do all this because my dad worked with Coke.”

Rowdies Visit the Birmingham Legion FC

On June 1st, Ed Boutwell and about 5000 Legion FC fans will get an opportunity to hear members of the Rowdies supporters group “Ralph’s Mob” sing their fight song – a jingle Boutwell and a band of Birmingham musicians created pulling together an all nighter some 45 years ago.

Tampa Bay Rowdies visit Birmingham Legion FC
MARCH 16, 2019 – ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA: The Tampa Bay Rowdies match versus Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Al Lang Stadium. (Photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies)

“We’re happy to visit Birmingham and play in front of Ed Boutwell,” said a Rowdies spokesperson to Bham Now. “We hope he enjoys the match and the opportunity to see the Rowdies live an in-person once again. The song he wrote so many years ago remains relevant to today’s fans and is played inside Al Lang Stadium before every match. Rowdies supporters both young and old know the lyrics and sing together, bringing two generations of our fans together.”

Photo from the Birmingham Legion Football Club Instagram

Legion FC Awaits Visit From the Rowdies

Legion FC is excited about this Saturday’s Tampa Bay Rowdies visit.

“I owned a full NASL Tampa Bay Rowdies kit as a child. To this day, those bold colors and iconic stripes remain, and the club is among the most recognizable in American soccer. Generations from now, Legion FC aspires to be looked upon in similar fashion,” concluded Doug Hicks, Executive Vice President, Legion FC

Don’t miss the Tampa Bay Rowdies take on the Birmingham Legion FC Saturday night, June 1, 7:00pm.

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.