Yet in its day it was produced on a fairly large budget and was so popular that it spawned a second, follow up series - "More Contrary".
It made stars of both female singers who were involved in a regular weekly spot, namely Joan Regan and Ruby Murray, the latter a discovery of the producer of the show, Richard Afton.
It introduced to the television world Katie Boyle who later went on to become the popular hostess of the Eurovision Song Contest, pre Terry Wogan. Coming from a real life aristocratic background , she was billed in the Radio Times under the exotic banner "And presenting Viscountess Boyle".
The show also made an international personality of the somewhat camp ladies hairdresser, "Raymond of Mayfair", more commonly known as the legendary "Teasy Weasy". This gentleman went on to fame and riches and became a well known racehorse owner, winning a Grand National with his horse "Rag Trade" in the sixties.
The show ran on a monthly basis, each show being one hour long. Every one ran in a midweek spot on a Wednesday evening. The first show aired on 4th. November 1953, ( a little earlier than was previously thought.), and starred the old music hall comedian, Jimmy Wheeler, whose memorable catchphrase at the end of each of his acts was "Aye, aye, that's yer lot!"
In the early fifties, around nine o'clock, when the show ran,
most women were still expected to be preparing their husband's supper, so it was a somewhat bold (and possibly experimental) piece of scheduling which presented a light entertainment show with a definite feminine slant. At the time, the BBC was still a bastion of the "heavier" and more intellectual end of programming. The schedules still contained Sunday night plays like "Euripides" and "The Duchess of Malfi", so venturing forth with a mixture of music, dance, comedy and a live "ladies hairdressing" slot must have given the powers that be, some trepidation. In fact the Radio Times billed it, somewhat timidly at the time, as "A New Kind of Show".
The show always opened with the said Viscountess Boyle, being shot in close up, smiling winsomely through a garland of flowers, while the camera panned slowly around her and Ray Martin and his Orchestra played the show's theme tune "Moonlight and Roses". That was the full extent of her contribution. This former "Vogue" fashion model was employed merely as what would now be termed "eye candy". And thus started Katie's illustrious TV career.
The first series ran for nine months until the last "Quite Contrary" on 18th. August 1954.
After only three months, Ray Martin and his Orchestra left the show due to other commitments and were replaced by "The Silver Belles", conducted by Frank Fletcher.
This ensemble provided the main music for the rest of the series.
What made the series really take off though was the solo singing spot occupied on each show by the then virtually unknown, Joan Regan. Glamorous and with an individual singing style, Joan's career really blossomed with this new mass exposure. In May 1954 her song "Someone Else's Roses" which featured in the show, reached number 5 in the British charts and her career went from strength to strength , so much so, that on June 23rd. after completing her May show with guest stars, Bert Weedon and Al Koran (providing a touch of magic),
Joan made way for the totally unknown and very young, Ruby Murray, making her television debut. (I can still remember how nervous this shy, young Irish girl looked on her first appearance.). Joan reappeared in the July 21st. show, for what was to be her final appearance in this vehicle. On August 18th., Ruby Murray made her second showing before the cameras in what was to be the final show of what had proved to be a very successful series. However, it was to be in the follow up series, "More Contrary" in the following year, 1955, that Ruby's career was to go into orbit, when she became the singing sensation of 1955, having at one time, five simultaneous hits in the British top twenty. It was on this show that she sang her mega hit "Softly, Softly".
The full cast of the last show of Quite Contrary was as follows. (Note the demotion of the Viscountess!)
Raymond of Mayfair
The Littlewood Songsters
The Television Toppers
The Silver Belles ( conducted by Frank Fletcher)
Devised and produced by Richard Afton.
So there we are, fellow Turnips. Surprising what can be divulged with the aid of both keys! Whether any of this matters or not is a moot point, but I, for one can now die happy. (Or did I dream it all up?). I was beginning to wonder.