Mungo Jerry is an English rock group whose greatest success was in the early 1970s, though they have continued throughout the years with an ever-changing line-up, always fronted by Ray Dorset. They are remembered above all for their hit "In the Summertime". It remains their most successful and most instantly recognisable song. Their name was inspired by the poem Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. According to Joseph Murrell's The Book of Golden Discs (1978), 'Mungomania' was possibly the most startling and unpredicted pop phenomenon to hit Britain since The Beatles.
Dorset and Colin Earl had previously been members of The Good Earth. Soon after recruiting Paul King and Mike Cole, they made their national debut at the Hollywood Festival at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire in May 1970, the week their first single, "In the Summertime" was released. They stole the show and the record topped the UK Singles Chart seven weeks, made number one in 26 countries around the world, and to date has sold around 30 million copies. Mungo Jerry made their first trip to the United States in September 1970. After John Godfrey replaced Cole, their second single "Baby Jump" also topped the UK chart in March 1971. A third hit, "Lady Rose" (also in 1971), gave the group the image as a band for producing summertime based hits.
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. King and Earl went on to form the King Earl Boogie Band.
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). No chart hit has had more than 13 words in the title, so "You Don't Have to be in The Army To Fight in The War" gave Mungo Jerry one more little souvenir of their hit-making days.
Colin Earl and Paul King formed The King Earl Band and recorded an album at Richard Branson's 'Manor Studios called 'Trouble at Mill' They played together on and off for the years following and ended up with a band called Skeleton Crew
The group's line-up has changed constantly over the years. 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 who had live television gigs in all countries behind the Iron Curtain. Their Golden Orpheus gig in Bulgaria also gave them a lot of new fans.
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). But Dorset had to wait until 1995 for a real comeback, 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 F.C. in 1999.
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.
In 2003, with German musicians, Dorset recorded Adults Only album under the name Mungo Jerry Blues Band, widely acclaimed as one of the best of his career. 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 - who had mixed in the past the old continental Mungo Jerry hits "Lana" and "It's a Secret" - and is well-known for his work with rock and pop music, in combination with big orchestras.
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.