In The Summertime – Mungo Jerry

THIS DAY IN MUSIC…………………………………..on June 13th of 1970 Mungo Jerry, a British band with an unusual name and a unique sound, had the top tune in the UK with “In The Summertime”. It went on to become the best selling UK single of the year, spending seven weeks at #1 and was a hit in 26 other countries including the US, where it would rise to #3 in mid-August. This buoyant tune was written by Ray Dorset, who was the group’s lead singer and guitarist. He penned the song in 1968 when he was working for Timex in the UK – his band was just getting started and music was more of a hobby at the time. Dorest says that the famous melody just popped into his head one day, and the next day he wrote the lyrics very quickly. The band was known as Memphis Leather and The Good Earth before getting a record deal and changing their name to Mungo Jerry (after the character Mungojerrie from the T. S. Eliot book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats – later the basis for the Broadway play Cats). Barry Murray, a producer at Pye Records, was a friend of Ray Dorset’s and signed the group to the label’s more adventurous imprint, Dawn Records, which released “In The Summertime” as their first single. The song took off, going to #1 in their native UK. The UK fortunes of the song were aided by the group’s appearance at the Hollywood Music Festival in Staffordshire England on May 23, 1970, shortly after the song was released. Playing on low on a bill with the Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Free and Traffic, the song got the attention of the 35,000 or so fans in attendance, giving it a huge lift.There is some very interesting instrumentation on this track. Ray Dorset did the vocals and played guitars (acoustic and electric), as well as a shaker instrument called cabasa. Paul King played banjo and jug; Mike Cole played string bass; Colin Earl played piano. Note that there are no drums, although you can hear Dorset stomping his foot to the rhythm. This was influenced by John Lee Hooker, who often used his foot as a percussion instrument. In the US, “In The Summertime” was issued as a standard single and also included on the album of the same name. In the UK, the group’s first album was called Mungo Jerry, and did not include this song. “In The Summertime” went on to sell over 16 million copies worldwide.