|Genres||Pop rock, AOR, folk, blues, psychedelic rock, soft rock, country, jug band|
|Labels||Dawn Records, Polydor, Scratch, Stage Coach, Mach 1, Orbit, Illegal|
|Past members||Former members|
Mungo Jerry are a British rock group whose greatest success was in the early 1970s, though they have continued with a changing line-up that has always been fronted by Ray Dorset. The group's name was inspired by the poem "Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer", from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. They are identified with their biggest hit "In the Summertime". It remains their most successful and most instantly recognisable song. They had nine charting singles in the UK, including two number ones, and five top 20 hits in South Africa.
Formation and original band: 1970–71
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Mungo Jerry came to prominence in 1970 after their performance at the Hollywood Festival at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire on 23 May, which was their first gig under this name. Their show was well received and the organisers asked them to perform again on the following day. The band grabbed all the headlines in the UK music press as they stole the limelight from the festival headliners, Black Sabbath, Traffic, Ginger Baker's Airforce, Grateful Dead (their first performance in the UK), and Jose Feliciano. Their first single, "In The Summertime", the first maxi-single in the world, released on 22 May, entered the UK charts at No. 13 and the following week went straight to No. 1. Ray Dorset had to ask his boss for time off to do the UK TV Show, Top of the Pops.
Ray Dorset and Colin Earl had previously been members of The Good Earth. Bassist Dave Hutchins left to join Bobby Parker's band and the drummer was dismissed so Dorset and Earl decided to fulfil the one remaining gig, an Oxford University Christmas Ball in December 1968, as a three-piece with Joe Rush, one of Dorset's work colleagues on double bass. Also on the bill was Miller Anderson making his debut as a singer and guitarist, and Mick Farren and the Social Deviants. Though booked for only one set, Good Earth were asked to perform another after the bands had finished, playing a selection of American folk/blues/skiffle/jug band music from Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie and others, and some of Dorset's songs.
The trio played more gigs and landed a regular slot at the Master Robert Motel in Osterley, Middlesex, where they soon built up a following, including banjo, guitar and blues harp player Paul King, who eventually joined the band, making it a four-piece.
After Rush left, Mike Cole was recruited on double bass, and this line-up recorded the first seventeen Mungo Jerry tracks which made up the first album and maxi-single including "In The Summertime". When they made their national debut at the Hollywood Festival Rush joined them on stage for some numbers to play washboard. The record topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks, made No. 1 in 26 countries around the world and to date has sold around 30 million units.
Mungo Jerry made their first trip to the United States in September 1970. On their return Mike Cole was fired and replaced by John Godfrey, who played bass on their second UK maxi-single, "Baby Jump", which also topped the UK chart in March 1971. The third UK single, another maxi, "Lady Rose", also in 1971, was also set to become another UK No. 1, but the record was temporarily withdrawn from sale and all existing copies were destroyed on the instructions of the Public Prosecutor's Office after complaints about the inclusion of the traditional song "Have A Whiff on Me", to which Dorset had added some of his own lyrics, on the grounds that it advocated the use of cocaine.
Dorset was the composer, guitarist, blues harp, kazoo player, frontman and singer. On return from a long tour of the Far East at the beginning of 1972 he was summoned to the band's management office and told by two of the other band members that he was fired and that his place was being taken by Dave Lambert. The record company, management and publishers did not go along with this idea and Ray Dorset was told that he was from then on, Ray Dorset the composer and Mungo Jerry the performing artist.
Line-up changes and side-projects: 1972–1980s
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In time Dorset found the group's good-time blues and jug band repertoire a little restricting, and in 1972 he released a solo album Cold Blue Excursion, with his songs backed by strings and brass and, in one instance, a jazz band. His intention to broaden the group's appeal by recruiting a drummer led to King and Earl trying to sack him, but the management, regarding Dorset as inseparable in the public eye from Mungo Jerry, fired them both instead. Dorset and Godfrey, the bassist, recruited new members and presented a new sound, heard on the fourth album Boot Power. Colin Earl and Paul King went on to form The King Earl Boogie Band and recorded an album at Richard Branson's Manor Studios called Trouble at Mill. They played together on and off in the years following and ended up with a band called Skeleton Crew.
Mungo Jerry's hits continued through to 1976 with "Open Up" (Top Twenty in Europe); "Alright Alright Alright" (a rewrite of an old French hit for Jacques Dutronc, and again a major hit worldwide reaching the Top 3 in the UK); "Wild Love"; "Long Legged Woman Dressed in Black"; "Hello Nadine" (European hit and Top Five in Canada); and "It's a Secret" (European hit). "You Don't Have to Be in the Army to Fight in the War" gave Mungo Jerry another hit.
In 1975 Earl, who had played piano with Foghat in between, returned to play keyboards, drummer Peter Sullivan joined and percussion player Joe Rush, part-time member of the band in earlier days, also came back for a while. The group's line-up continued to change. Among those who have played with them are bassist Bob Daisley, drummers Dave Bidwell, Paul Hancox and Boris Williams, guitarist Dick Middleton, keyboard player Sev Lewkowicz, and keyboard/accordion player Steve Jones. They have remained particularly popular throughout Europe. Mungo Jerry was the first western band to have live television gigs in all countries behind the Iron Curtain.
In 1980 another Dorset song, "Feels Like I'm in Love", originally written for Elvis Presley, and recorded by the band as a B side of a single, became a British number one hit for Kelly Marie. They remained successful with overseas hits like "On A Night Like This", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (a reggae version of the Bob Dylan song) and "Sunshine Reggae" (British version by Mungo Jerry & Horizon).
In 1983 Dorset was part of the blues super-group Katmandu, which recorded A Case for the Blues, with guitarist Peter Green, formerly of Fleetwood Mac, and keyboard player Vincent Crane, formerly of Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Occasional appearances and comebacks: 1990s–2000s
Mungo Jerry remained somewhat inactive until 1995 when "In the Summertime" was recorded by reggae vocalist Shaggy, who topped the charts worldwide. The last UK chart entry for Mungo Jerry was "Toon Army" a song for Newcastle United in 1999.
In 2003, with German musicians, Dorset recorded the Adults Only album under the name Mungo Jerry Blues Band. 2005 saw him performing with three Mungo Jerry line-ups: The British Mungo Jerry Band (pop/rock), the German Mungo Jerry Blues Band (blues/rock), and Mungo Jerry & the Goodtime Gamblers (jug/blues/skiffle).
Also in June 2005, Ray Dorset had a gig again as a duo with Mike Cole—the original double bass player from the early Mungo days—as a highlight of the "35 Years of Mungo Jerry" event in both Newcastle and Stoke.
In March 2006, Mungo Jerry released the single "Mr Midnight" from Phantom of the Opera on Ice; produced by Roberto Danova. The Mungo Jerry Ray Dorset was part of the "British Blues-Allstars-Tour" as singer and guitar-player, performing together with Long John Baldry, Spencer Davis, Pete York and Colin Hodgkinson.
2007 saw the release of two albums. Naked—From The Heart was recorded in an analogue studio to recreate the sound of the early Mungo years. Dorset recorded the songs together with original bass player Mike Cole, with Bruce Brand playing percussion and piano. The second release in the end of the same year was the second LP from the Mungo Jerry Bluesband, called When She Comes, She Runs All Over Me.
Between 2008 and 2011, Mungo Jerry performed at various European blues and jazz festivals. In 2010, a re-recording of "In The Summertime" to celebrate its 40th anniversary was recorded by Mungo Jerry and Bluestone featuring MC Skibadee. It reached the Top Twenty in the UK Dance Chart. In 2012, Mungo Jerry released Cool Jesus and the single "Give Us a Song".
- Current members
- Former members
- Mungo Jerry – 1970 (No. 14, UK)
- Electronically Tested – 1971 (No. 13, UK)
- You Don't Have to Be in the Army – 1971
- Boot Power – 1972
- Long Legged Woman Dressed in Black – 1974
- Impala Saga – 1975
- Ray Dorset & Mungo Jerry – 1977
- Lovin' in the Alleys, Fightin' in the Streets – 1977
- Six Aside – 1979
- Together Again – 1981
- Boogie Up – 1982
- Katmandu – A Case for the Blues – 1984 (Mungo Jerry/Peter Green/Vincent Crane)
- All the Hits Plus More – 1987 (compilation album)
- Snakebite – 1991
- Old Shoes New Jeans – 1997
- Candy Dreams – 2001
- Move On – The Latest and Greatest – 2002 (compilation)
- Adults Only – 2003
- Naked – From the Heart – 2007
- When She Comes, She Runs All Over Me – 2007
- Cool Jesus – 2012
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 133. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- "Mungo Jerry biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- "Mungo Jerry". Officialcharts.com. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
- "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Acts (M)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 678. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 283. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- "Talking Shop: N Dubz". BBC News. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
My dad and our manager [Byron Contostavlos] ... was in a band called Mungo Jerry, he played the bass.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 383. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- John Van der Kiste and Derek Wadeson: Beyond the Summertime: Mungo Jerry Story – 1990 ISBN 0-9510922-2-7