Profile: Richard Connell (Papa Ritchie) Ottawa
by Dave Tulloch
The University of Ottawa CHUO Radio obtained its broadcast license from the CRTC in 1991. CHUO transmits on the 89.1 MHz FM band and live streams from their website. In 1975 “The station began as a radio club transmitting as CHOR, an AM carrier current station, on 670 kHz on the University of Ottawa campus.” But in 1984 CHOR rebranded as CFUO. It then “started cablecasting and could be heard on closed circuit in the university’s student residences. CHUO’s programming is free form including the genres of jazz, indie rock, electronic, (and) classical alongside many radio programs produced by and for the Black community including Ici L’Afrique, Afrika Revisited, Black on Black, Rockers, Caribbean Flavour, Bouyon Racin, Men Kontré, Freestyle.”
In 1984 “one of the founding volunteers, Richard Connell (Papa Richie)” began to produce and host a Reggae program called “Rockers”. This was the second exclusive Reggae music radio program to be aired in Ottawa. When Ottawa University obtained its broadcast license, Ottawa’s pioneering Reggae music radio program “Reggae in the Fields” had been initiated and hosted by Junior Smith at Carleton University 15 years earlier. But the new CHUO’s program augmented Reggae in the Fields with an added dimension to the Reggae genre and a different style of DJ presentation. Both programs with an interlude of a CHUO Soca program, saturated the Saturday afternoon airwaves with Reggae music from noon to 5 PM to the delight of Reggae enthusiasts in and around Ottawa.
Richard is the son of the late Vilma and Greville Connell, who immigrated to Canada in 1968. His parents had initially immigrated from Jamaica to the UK. They lived in Brixton, a district in south London where Richard, the second of four children was born. His father Greville was lured to Canada by a close relative and while he led the way to get things established the remaining members returned to Jamaica for a brief period before reuniting in Ottawa.
Richard started his school life in Ottawa at the MacNabb Public School and after the family moved from Lyon Street to Third Avenue in the Glebe, he briefly attended Glebe Collegiate and then went to the Ottawa Technical High School to study Electronics, Computers, and Informatics. In 1986 He completed his post-secondary education at Algonquin College and began working at Cognos in their computer operations unit. Cognos was a high-profile Ottawa Information Technology company that was later bought out by IBM. Richard’s career progressed through the ranks to Computer operations management.
It was in 1984 that Richard recognized his “God-given” speaking talent and his passion for music. This recognition led him in a direction that has had a lasting impact on Ottawa’s Black Community. He credits Canada’s pioneering Reggae radio host Junior Smith who gave him, the opportunity, when he was just a 15-year-old music enthusiast, to co-host a short segment of the Reggae in the Fields program. Junior Smith encouraged him to pursue his interest and his passion for music. He was later introduced to the people at CHUO where he took over a fledging programming slot to host what has now become a staple Saturday afternoon Reggae program that has been on air for almost 40 years.
When CHUO’s “Rockers” Reggae music program began, Richard said that he would hop on a bus and head off to the University with a stack of vinyl records in hand. At that time, there were no outlets for sourcing Reggae records in Ottawa. He would make periodic trips back to Kingston, Jamaica to secure a stack of new releases and return to Ottawa to air them to his listeners. During these visits, he met with many of the movers and shakers in the Reggae music industry as well as several of the Radio hosts (DJ’s). Because of this was afforded the opportunity to sit in and chat with people like Richard ‘Richie B’ Burgess one of the pre-eminent DJs on the popular RJR station in Kingston Jamaica.
Richard (Papa Ritchie) explained that it was during an interview with Richie B at the RJR studio that he realized the extent of his Radio broadcast talents. During that interview, there was a barrage of telephone calls from listeners wanting to know the person behind the voice with such resonance, and immediately afterward, the veteran Jamaican broadcaster (the late) Neville Willoughby came by the studio to meet him. Several people tried to entice him back to Jamaica, but Richard decided that Ottawa was where he belonged and that he was quite happy in the studio at CHUO. He believes that he has inspired a new generation of aspirants to succeed him and ensure continuity in airing much of the type of music that is enjoyed by Caribbean people as well as a growing segment of the Canadian population but is still not aired or streamed by the mainstream media.