Legendary Barbadian Entertainer Richard Stoute Dies at the Age of 77
by Karen Rollins Nov 27, 2023
Veteran Barbadian entertainer Richard Stoute died at the age of 77 on Saturday 25 November 2023.
In 2018, Yello was pleased to chat with Richard about his distinguished music career.
Below is our original interview with him where he discussed why he started his catalytic talent show – which he called one of his greatest achievements – and how he believed the show had influenced countless Barbadian musicians and entertainers.
Richard Stoute’s influence on the Barbadian music scene cannot be overstated.
The veteran singer and songwriter was the catalyst for the careers of several leading local artists such as Alison Hinds, Rupee, and Edwin Yearwood, through the highly successful ‘Richard Stoute Teen Talent Competition’.
Decades before X-Factor or Pop Idol were created, Richard started his search for local Barbadian talent and basically put his own career on hold to concentrate on nurturing and developing the island’s youngest creative minds.
Richard spoke to Yello about his life in the entertainment industry.
You’ve been referred to as the Godfather of Entertainment in Barbados – how do you feel about that title?
Anything to do with God makes me happy because God has been good to me. It’s a great feeling especially when you know that you’ve given so much of yourself.
I’m 72 but I’ve been in showbiz for about 102 years! I’ve done about 60 years as an entertainer myself and 42 years producing the teen talent show, so I’ve broken all the records.
Speaking of the Teen Talent Competition – what do you think has been the key to its longevity?
I think it was a God-guided endeavour and it’s a spiritual thing that happened to me because God wanted me to do it.
I started the show at the Barbados Holiday Inn, now known as the Radisson, in 1977.
I was working there as the entertainment coordinator and I prayed about what I could do to implement new programmes, and the first thing that came to mind was to start a youth programme for the young people of Barbados to display their talent.
I thought this type of show would also appeal to locals and bring them into the hotel rather than just putting on entertainment for the tourists.
At the first show we only had five people in the audience and I remember the management asked me if I wanted to continue. But the next evening we had 15, and then 25 and so on until we had to move the show from the gazebo bar and put it on the pier, and the beach would be full of people listening every Sunday.
And you put your own successful career on the backburner?
Well, I believe everything happens for a reason.
For example, I went to England in 1991 to perform at a concert and I was offered a recording contract to stay in the UK and take my career onto an international stage.
I went back to the hotel and that morning I had a call at 6am telling me that my son had died at his job from an asthma attack which immediately curtailed all my thoughts and I flew back to Barbados to bury him.
But I believe that God is in control and the talent show is what He wanted me to do.
Did you ever imagine the show would be so successful?
Well, I always felt that the influence of the show would be important because it was about giving young people exposure.
I wasn’t interested in money or anything like that, it was about what I could do to bring international focus onto Barbados’ music.
In 1968, (Barbadian singer) Jackie Opel remarked to me that he believed I would do something important for Barbados and I believe the show is what he was talking about, so I’m happy that I had the vision and God’s direction to do it.
How has the show influenced the Barbados music scene?
Well, if you look at Crop Over, which is the island’s biggest money earner in terms of tourism, in last year’s calypso competition there were 18 singers and 11 of them had come through the Teen Talent programme.
Within the last three or four years the winners of the Party Monarch and Soca competitions have come through Teen Talent. So, you would have to say that it has provided a substantial proportion of the performers we listen to and respect now.
What are your thoughts on the Barbados music scene?
I’m not a supporter of mediocrity so I’m a little taken back when someone can come and sing four words and win $50,000 (BBD) and sometimes there aren’t even any instruments involved.
Music has value and should have a message and affect people, so I’d like to see writers create songs which are more uplifting and intelligent.
I also wish that spouge music, which is Barbadian and was created by Jackie Opel, was promoted and incorporated into the Crop Over Festival and given more exposure. Jamaica has reggae, Trinidad has their calypso, and we have spouge but we need to brag about it.
We need to find a way to entice talent scouts to come here when the Festival is on and get our young people in front of them so that they can be heard, and who knows where that might lead.
Do you think there’s another Rihanna on the island somewhere?
Oh yes, I have a nine-year-old girl who is coming to the workshop now who has unbelievable talent and then the 2017 winner Trinity Clarke, who was just 11, was phenomenal. It’s just a matter of getting them enough exposure.
What has been the highest and lowest point of your career?
The highlight was when I won the Caribbean Soul Scene competition in 1971. It took place in St Croix and I won by 30 points and put Barbados ahead of 13 other islands so that was a proud achievement.
The lowest point is when I don’t see my young people getting enough opportunities to break through on the international scene. I gave up my whole career for these young people, so I just want them to be given the chance to be seen and heard by the right people.
Who was your biggest musical influence?
Jackie Opel. I used to look up to him and as a matter of fact when I started my career I was in a group which he named and founded called ‘The Opels’.
We used to practice in a public convenience in New Orleans and people would be showering while we played our music. But he would come and listen and sing with us. He was also the one who sent me to the competition in St Croix which I won.
He gave me confidence, guided me, and was a positive influence.
In fact, his granddaughter now comes to my vocal training classes and sometimes I listen to her and think it’s amazing how God works, and I’m trying to pass onto her what her grandfather taught me.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in a music career?
Be serious about what you want to do and understand that professionalism is important. Think about the way you carry yourself, how you speak and the way you behave because there’s no point having a great voice and you don’t know how to conduct yourself.
I also firmly believe that God is in charge so don’t ever think that you are above Him because He’s mighty and He can stop you in a minute.
What are your hopes for Barbados’ future?
I’d like people to be more respectful towards one another, less violent, especially in the home with men and how they treat women.
My motto in life is to be respectful, to give, to forgive and to understand what it takes to make me a man and once I approach my life that way I know I can’t go wrong.
Where I grew up on the island was considered wild, there were fights every day, and it was a challenge because nothing came easy. My parents were poor, and I overcame that poverty, that struggle put me in good stead and helped me to be the man I am today.
I’m proud to say that I’ve never seen the inside of a courtroom or police station.
So, I’ve learnt through my life that if you can’t go over the wall, you go under it. I just wish people would put more energy into solving problems, instead of fighting and cursing, because that energy could be used more positively.
Just hours before his death, the government of Barbados had announced plans to name the amphitheatre at the National Botanical Gardens in Richard Stoute’s honour. In a statement, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said: “When I visited him and asked his permission for us to confer this lasting memorial to his extraordinary contribution to Bajan young people, he was truly touched and readily agreed.”
She added: “Awards and honours aside, Richard Stoute’s unapologetic perfectionism and immaculate style and manner, whether on or off stage are traits that we can all emulate. Indeed, his philosophy of “the right way is the only way” can be applied to every area of endeavor and in whatever we do in our daily lives…May he rest in eternal peace.”