Monday, January 1, 2018

Ray Dorset (Mungo Jerry)

Ray Dorset was born in 1946 in Ashford, Surrey (Middlesex). He became fascinated with early rock & roll and in particular the sounds of skiffle. Ray joined Good Earth, where he met Colin Earl. The rock and blues group did release some tracks but they did not sell well and so Dorsey and Earl decided to form a new band. Mungo Jerry started in 1970 with Ray Dorset (vocals), Colin Earl (keyboards), Mike Cole (upright bass), Paul King (guitar, kazoo and jug) and Joe Rush (washboard and drums). The name Mungo Jerry came from the poem Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. In very quick order the group was contracted to Pye Records. Signed to the progressive label Dawn Records imprint, Mungo Jerry played jug band music with make shift musical instruments like jug, kazoo and washboard. The sound was more blues-folk than heavy rock and had a touch of Jesse Fuller, Tampa Red, and Piano Red (aka Dr. Feelgood).

Following their national debut at the Hollywood Festival at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire in May 1970, the group released their first single, a Ray Dorset composition "In the Summertime." The simple was an easy-going, catchy skiffle-like piece which instantly caught the mood of the season and became a massive hit across the world.

A self-titled debut album followed but by the time it was released Joe Rush and Mike Cole (replaced by John Godfrey) had left the band.

Baby jump was the groups second single (1971) and sold well in the UK but less well elsewhere.

A third hit, "Lady Rose" (also in 1971), gave the group the image as a band for producing summertime based hits.

In quick succession the group released two UK albums in one year i.e. Electronically Tested, and You Don't Have to Be in the Army. Both sold reasonably well.

In the US, Mungo Jerry released Memoirs of a Stockbroker on Janus Records.

During this time internal squabble between band members resulted in Paul King and Colin Earl leaving. When they tried to take the name Mungo Jerry this led to a bitter dispute but Ray Dorset, as the singer, guitarist, and songwriter managed to hold the name and recruited keyboard player Jon Pope and drummer Tim Reeves to carry on. From 1972, Mungo Jerry continued to have a series of line-up changes with only Ray Dorset remaining from the original group. The group continued to sell well on the singles chart with "Open Up" (1976); "Alright Alright Alright"; "Wild Love"; "Long Legged Woman Dressed in Black"; "Hello Nadine”; "It's a Secret" (European hit); and finally "You Don't Have to be in The Army To Fight in The War."

By 1976 Mungo Jerry were no longer selling millions of records but did continue to be popular as a live act especially in Europe and Russia. Ray Dorset did have a solo career and released several solo albums, including A Case for the Blues, featuring Peter Green on guitar in 1978.

The band meantime signed to Polydor, and the original members Colin Earl and Joe Rush did return for a short time. The Ray Dorset song “Feels like I’m in love” was written originally for Elvis Presley and recorded by Mungo Jerry as a B side of a single, but went to #1 in the UK for Kelly Marie in 1980.

Ray Dorset continues to record and perform and the band still enjoys tremendous popularity on the retro circuit.

Worth a listen
In The Summertime (1970)
Baby Jump (1971)
Lady Rose (1971)
You Don't Have to Be in the Army to Fight in the War (1971)
Open Up (1972)
Alright Alright Alright (1973)
Wild Love (1973)
Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black (1974)

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