Thursday 6 May 2021

Two From the Bottom, Two From The Top

Question - what's the connection between Pinky and Perky, Max Bygraves, The Spanish Flea and Countdown?

Answer - Marcel Stellman, who died this week at the age of 96 [pictured here with his wife Jean]

He is the amazingly talented Belgian who wrote loads of popular songs in the from the 1940s onwards. He worked with Englebert Humperdinck, Kathy Kirby,  Dame Vera Lynn, Sir Tom Jones, Petula Clark, Charles Aznavour and many others. He wrote Spanish Flea for Herb Alpert and Tulips From Amsterdam for Max Bygraves [today's trivial fact, MB's wife was called Blossom, and at school, she was in the same Netball Team as my Mum]

But back to well as his songwriting/producing career, he was also involved in television production- and in the 60s worked in the children's TV for the BBC, including the show "Pinky and Perky"

Then in 1982, he pitched the idea of "Countdown" [based on a French show called Des Chiffres et des Lettres - numbers and letters] Yorkshire Television took it on - and it became the first ever programme shown on the fledgling Channel Four, hosted by Richard Whiteley, with Carol Vorderman. It was an instant his. Marcel was called "Mr Countdown" - to which he replied "If I am MR Countdown, Carol is MRS Countdown". Ten years later, lexicographer Susie Dent joined Dictionary Corner. She said on Tuesday "Marcel was our patriarch and most passionate advocate"

I used to watch Countdown with the girls when they came home from school, to help their maths and spelling. Whilst still quite young, Steph realised that the word "dangerous" had 9 letters. Consequently, whenever the final 'conundrum' appeared she would automatically shout "dangerous!" But sadly I am not sure that the producers ever chose that word!

Did you singalong with Max Bygraves?

Imitate Pinky and Perky with their squeaky voices?

Or watch Countdown and try and beat the contestants' scores?

RIP Marcel, you provided much entertainment for adults and children alike. Merci beaucoup, and adieu!


  1. We were avid watchers of countdown, especially when the late Richard Whitely was the host. My children loved pinky and perky when they were little too. I must admit to watching it myself occasionally.

    1. I never quite got on with the subsequent hosts, and stopped watching

  2. What a talented man!!! He did so many things!

  3. Saw Max Bygraves at the London Palladium as a child back in the 1950s. Remember singing along to the silly song Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen.

    1. ... by the sea...! "Novelty" songs were so popular in my childhood - but they seem to have gone out of fashion now.

  4. I grew up without any exposure to TV and once I was able to watch TV, it was mostly American shows. But Mr. Stellman sounds like a very talented person; may he rest in peace.


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