When was the last time you heard the name, Mungo Jerry? Rest assured, with the weather heating up, you recently listened to the timeless classic, In the Summertime.
But was it a man or a band who sang the song, and is he still making music?
We decided to learn more about the person or people behind one of our favorite summer hits.
Let’s jump in!
Who is Mungo Jerry?
Mungo Jerry is a British pop, rock, and blues band that originated in 1969. The groovy man behind the name is Ray Dorset.
As a child, Dorset grew up in west London. He credits much of his early interest in music to his family. He affectionately recalls the weekend family singalongs while his mother played the piano. Cinema and musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers also significantly influenced him.
Ray’s career began rather ordinarily while attending school and trying different trades. He apprenticed as a hairdresser for nine months. After additional study, he worked for various technology companies that manufactured radio control equipment. He enjoyed electronics.
Dorset started playing with bands as a teenager. Like many musicians, Dorset’s music was an aside from his regular day job. In his off time, he formed the group Good Earth. In 1968, they released It’s Hard Rock And All That on the Saga record label.
Members of the band changed, and so did the name. They settled on Mungo Jerry, referencing the character Mungojerrie from the T.S. Eliot book Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats.
The Band Mungo Jerry
Oxford University asked the Good Earth band to play a Christmas gig. The group then comprised lead vocalist Ray Dorset on guitar, Colin Earl on piano, and Joe Rush on double bass. Though booked for only one set, organizers asked them to play another. The guys delivered a selection of blues and rock in their clever skiffle style.
Soon, the trio had a regular following. They added Paul King to play banjo, guitar, and harp. Rush left, and Mike Cole took his place. The Mungo Jerry quartet of Dorset, Earl, King, and Cole recorded the band’s first seventeen tracks. The international sensation, In the Summertime, was in the lineup.
In the Summertime came out while Dorset still worked for Timex. He asked for time off and never returned. In 1972, he began branching off into solo endeavors. After a long tour in the far east, two band members tried to oust Ray.
Management saw Dorset as the man behind the group. He was the composer, guitarist, blues harp, kazoo player, frontman, and singer rolled into Mungo Jerry. He didn’t get sacked.
Instead, Ray Dorset officially became Mungo Jerry, the performing and recording artist. In time, he developed the look that fits the folksy rock sound, with the crazy outfits and the famous sideburns.
Today, there are 20 discographies to the name.
Mungo Jerry’s Best Known Songs
Listening to sixty years of Jerry Mungo goodness, we picked three of our favorites. Ray Dorset is the composer for each.
In the Summertime
The song, In the Summertime, skyrocketed Mungo Jerry’s debut album, In the Summertime, to infinite success. Dorset commented, “The longer it [song] goes on, the more it becomes like Happy Birthday because when everybody thinks of the summer, they think of In the Summertime.”
Living his best life, Ray composed the song in ten minutes. You’ll smile as you identify the sounds in this song: electric guitar, six-string acoustic, cabasa, banjo, jug, piano, string bass, and a Triumph sports car. The masterpiece is a timeless classic.
Lady Rose is still one of the best songs released by Mungo Jerry. It reached number five on the UK Singles Chart. The BBC banned the song because it felt a particular lyric reflected drug abuse. After a slight word adjustment, the hit went right back to the top of the charts.
The melody is a blend of piano and harmonica, plus we think we heard early beatbox sounds. Let us know if you hear them too.
Dorset originally wrote Baby Jump in the 1960s. He rewrote it for the 1971 album Electronically Tested. A woman of interest inspired the song, seemingly too far out of reach.
Baby Jump sounds like an original New Orleans creole mix with a hint of the Beatles and wild rock thrown in.
Is Mungo Jerry Still Alive?
Mungo Jerry is alive and well and continues to create his signature sound.
Ray lives with his third wife in England. In addition to the decades-long music career, the couple owns a restaurant. At 76, Ray says he should retire but that his mind is like that of an 18-year-old.
Only Dorset’s family and close friends call him Ray. To the rest of the world, he’s Mungo Jerry. He has a newsy website that stokes the love.
What’s Mungo Jerry Doing Now?
Mungo Jerry released a new album, Somelight, to critical acclaim in 2022. If you listen to the teasers, you’re instantly thrown into the classic skiffle rock sound that could only be his.
Overall, the songs contain a lyrical depth that’s current and compliments the Mungo Jerry positive way. The album is a true gem. The song Happy to Be is an easy singalong that’ll put you in an upbeat groove.
The Colour of Love has a purposeful rhythm and a “chk chk ook” beat box that pulls us right in.
The man, and the band, have a loyal following in Europe. If you’re part of Mungomania, hop on a flight to Gressvik, Norway, to catch some Mungo Jerry fever. Then, watch him again in Austria when he plays with Christoph Steinbach and Friends in the Boogie & Blues.
Mungo Jerry Is Alive and Well
Mungo Jerry, the man, the band, and an unforgettable delight, continues to entertain the world. As the Earth spins and the seasons change, someone, somewhere, is surely playing In the Summertime. We certainly can’t get enough of the positive vibes.
Do you remember the first time you heard In the Summertime?