Ray Dorset aka Mungo Jerry Talking About Ealing, Festivals and Blues
In 1970, Mungo Jerry enjoyed world-wide fame with a song called “In The Summertime”. That song went to number three on the US chart and number one in England. Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry talked with us about the history of the group. Now performing as Mungo Jerry and popular at Blues Festivals, performing this July at Ealing Blues Festival.
BD: I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk with you today, the writer of In The Summertime
BD: Lets start off with the here and Now. Mungo Jerry not in the 1970’s band format performing at Ealing Blues Festival July 2017.
RD: Mungo Jerry is me Ray Dorset. I am Mungo Jerry the artist performer. I have owned the name since 1972. Before I was even fired from the band. Once I was fired they considering the vocalist from the Strawbs to replace me it wouldn’t work. BD: Why? RD: They very quickly realised without Mungo there was no band called Mungo Jerry. In retrospect having the Mungo Jerry was a good move for me. Gives me an identity linking back to the band and suits the widespread music I play, African and world music rooted in the blues.
BD: Now playing in the Summertime in West London at Ealing’s Blues Festival what will you associated with 70’s pop bring to the Blues vibe?
RD: Mungo Jerry is not pop as it is known today. I will be playing In The Summertime it is expected. You can be assured I will not be doing what Shaggy did at Glastonbury with In The Summertime get crowds to wave arms in the air never expect a worldwide performer to keep asking people put arms in the air just can’t do it. The hit the band Mungo Jerry had with In The Summertime was one of many. Even then the essence of blues was present. BD: How? RD: We had no drummer; the percussion was from Cabasa combined with my foot stomping on the floor picking up from John Lee Hooker’s style..
BD: Back to Ealing Festival
RD: As I said I don’t do pop. I play some of my hits that is to be expected. Most importantly I play music I enjoy playing. I gauge the crowds reaction and what else is on the festival line-up. I am not there to educate or display a virtuoso performance. I am at a festival to entertain, hopefully the music will be a positive and therapeutic experience. I give something in my performance and get something back from the crowds it is karma. What will be fun at Ealing will be playing music the audience wants to hear. You have to remember the majority of the crowd what to be entertained on a summer’s day. They really do not care about the genre and if it is recorded music who produced it is of little importance. Music for them they either like or dislike. Hopefully they will like my music and I am really looking forward to playing Ealing this July and you never know there may even be schools mates from when I lived in West London.
BD: What were your introduction to music growing up in West London?
RD: I grew up in Ashford Middlesex in 1955 the population was approximately 16,500 the whole family was very, very musical. My Father played the harmonica and Mum the Piano and sang. On any occasion, Christmas, birthdays, family get-togethers we all did our turn playing and singing. I had no brothers or sisters so was taken by my Gran to lots of movies, particularly Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and especially musicals. Such as Annie Get Your Gun, The King & I, and Singin’ In The Rain. There was something in the rhythm and groove that had a therapeutic effect. When I was eight or nine my Great Uncle would take me to the local football club socials; I would sit as close to the band as possible I could feel what it would like to be the drummer. I started playing the washboard, then made a tea-chest bass and then saw it up to make a guitar. I had for Christmas a terrible plastic guitar and then when I was ten I got a proper guitar for Christmas. By the time I was eleven I was in my first skiffle band with friends from school, rehearsing around each other’s houses, yet never thought about being a professional musician.
I had an interest in electronics and had a crystal set for Christmas one year, build that and then investigated how it worked. A friend discovered transistors used to buy ex-government components and old radios and take them apart. Then I got a job in Timex in Brentford working in research drawing up quality control equipment. Hand –in-hand whilst I was playing in a band in the evenings and weekends. By the time I was fifteen I was playing in the White Hart and Red Lion in Sutton, on alternate Saturday evenings. The Rolling Stones played there on a Thursday evening. We were running out of repertoire from across various genres so started to write songs.
BD: You obviously loved playing music and the effect music had on yourself when listening and others when playing. Who influenced you?
RD: So many, from across the genres. From playing in the same venue as the Rolling Stones to when my band supported the Yardbirds, they were phenomenal, unique and real. Then bands like The Who created a fantastic groove the maximum R n’ B from three musicians; and rooted in the blues. From the British Blues Scene I explored the music that influenced them I have always been inquisitive and asked questions.
As I found music I explored the roots and the road led back to blues whether Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie; who played a lot of Leadbelly. I listened to music from far and wide and continue to find new experiences like Daddy Long Legs based in America he does a great version of Bourgeoise Blues full of raw energy. Through discovering his music recorded in jail by Alan Lomax I found the other artist captured on Lomax’s tapes. Blues run deep from Robert Johnson through to Muddy Waters & BB King the list could go on they have been so influential.
BD: That leads us nicely to and linking back to Ealing Blues Festival. What does the Blues mean to you and can it be defined?
RD: Blues has a fundamental drive it is honest music. I have always listened to music associated with the blues, the old timers, British Jazz and my Mother loved Frankie & Johnny with Elvis Presley and I was paying in a Skiffle and Blues Band. Rock N Roll came to the fore with Bill Halley then Elvis Presley they go back to rural blues. Country and blues and of course Rockabilly white ghetto blues.
Enough people have defined the blues intellectually and socially for me it is about a feeling. There are so many different aspects of blues. There is an element of soul to it the feel is kind of rooted in the blues. The feel and soul reaches back to slavery, servitude working in the fields creating rural blues. Rising out of intense misery singing about the discontent, hurt complaining to a beat can be persuasive. Blues is about writing about what is happening and can be triggered by an event such as a hurricane or newspaper headline or a phrase overheard. You could say the roots of I Don’t Like Monday title and theme is a link in the chain of blues impacting popular music.
Blues is personified by for example, Sleepy John Estes, Married Women Blues electric guitar into a basic amp both bought from a department store yet created music that was timeless. The same goes for the legendary twelve-string played by Leadbelly both influential musicians over the decades. Stripped down to its basics it is guitar and foot stomping, from likes of John Lee Hooker as you get more excited the stomping gets harder creating a fundamental tempo. The instruments, lyrics and player meld into one delivering the blues. Blues has always been commercial once they sold records Howlin’ Wolf wanted to sell his records and was commercial and there is so much more than 12-bar blues it is a much more complex genre. It has to have an element of being unique not just replicated what has already been done and definitely for me in the blues less is more; I have definitely made that mistake. I find that today so many blues artists play the same style all the time reflecting what seems to be taught and the influence of X-factor type programmes. Take Joe Bonamassa he can play the guitar BUT it has all been done before.
I have written blues in various styles always been an influence. Looking to write and record in the future something that has not already been done in the past. It will definitely be influenced by all the soulful blues energy and hopefully create something unique. Music that isn’t just for a black guy to sing. American population is made up of immigrants from Europe, Asia and Africa. The music became the melting pot with influences from Eastern Europe, Germany, Ireland as they got together in homesteads and East met West. The instruments were mixed together whatever was available, parlour piano, banjo, harmonica, accordion all got mixed together as remembered folk music formed and re-formed into music we recognise today.
BD: During your long career, a jam with Peter Green & Vincent Crane resulted in the Katmandu Album, Case For The Blues
RD: I first met Peter Green when he was in Fleetwood Mac; he recommended a guitar shop to me. Then met him again when I was living in Grayshott Surrey where I lived for a while in a large house with a recording studio. Chris Hollands asked me if I fancied a jam with Peter Green I said yes, come round to my studio. Few days later another phone call Vincent Crane fancies a jam. So we got together with Peter Green, Vincent Crane(Keyboards), Len Surtees an old school friend on bass and cousin of motorbike racer John Surtees; Jeff Whittaker on percussion with sharp skills. We realised that we didn’t have a drummer so asked Jackie Lynton Band’s drummer Greg Terry to come round. So we had a big jam session, and thought possibly have a record from this so recorded on a cassette and 2” multi track.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect / fantasy band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing
RD: No not doing that the past is the past only now. BUT I would love to have a jam with Bob Dylan; Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton. If I could bring someone back to play it would be Vincent Crane he was a genius the way he played, whether classical progressive or rock. There would have been no ELP or Crazy World of Arthur Brown without his influence and keyboard skills. So sad he committed suicide a real loss.
Thank you for your time, been wonderful chatting with you as we wondered around the world of music, Mungo Jerry and In The Summertime
Ealing Blues Festival Leads with The Blockheads and Mungo Jerry
Tickets on sale here.
Leading the line-up this year are The Blockheads, one of the most underrated British bands of all time. Since 2000, Derek Hussey has been fronting the band, adding 21st century bite to the everyday observations of their late frontman Ian Dury. They will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of their album ‘New Boots & Panties’ by bringing their witty lyrics to their biggest London show of the summer.
Joining them as headliners across the weekend are Mungo Jerry, the blues, jugband & skiffle influenced band whose frontman and founder Ray Dorset played a number of Ealing venues in his formative years. The group are famous for their feel good summer anthems and responsible for one of the best-selling singles of all time, “In The Summertime”, which has sold over 30 million copies.
As always, Ealing Blues Festival will present the artists at the heart of the British blues scene, with performances from 2016 British Blues Awards finalists Tim Aves, Northsyde, Sam Kelly & Laura Holland, 2016 Sky Arts Guitar Star series finalist Steve Morrison and Amy Mayes, who recently performed with Jools Holland’s band for his Radio Two show. It is also proud to champion a number of emerging blues artists, and will feature showcases from Winnie & The Rockettes, Georgie Chapple, Du Bellows, Andy Twyman and Tom Walker.
Ealing Blues Festival began as an independently-sponsored ‘free’ event in 1987. Over the years, the festival has developed in partnership with Ealing Council & The Event Umbrella to become one of the biggest blues festivals in the UK, with almost 6,000 people attending last year alone. Acts will perform across three stages in Ealing’s beautiful Walpole Park.
Ealing Blues Festival is one of 2017’s Ealing Summer Festivals, a series of eight separate events taking place in the borough between July and September. Set in some of Ealing’s most beautiful parks, the festivals bring people together in a collective appreciation of exceptional local and international talent across a range of artistic disciplines.
Tom Walker Band
Laura Holland Band
Bourbon Street Revival
Amy Mayes Band
Georgie Chapple Band
Tim Aves & Wolfpack
Steve Morrison & Blues Abuse
Sam Kelly’s Station House
Dan Sowerby & Hugh Budden
Winnie & The Rockettes
Geoff Garbow Band
Robert Hokum’s Blues Festival All Stars
King Buster Blues Band
Ealing Blues Festival details
22th – 23th July 2017
Walpole Park, London, W5 5HS
12pm – 11pm
Tickets available from here
Advance tickets: £5 per day or £10 for the weekend (plus booking fees)