Little-known skiffle-cum-jug band, The Good Earth gained instant success and a new name overnight following a sensational performance at the Hollywood Pop Festival in Staffordshire, England, where they proved more popular than headliners The Grateful Dead, Traffic and Free.
Taking their new name from a cat in a T.S Eliot poem, Mungo Jerry’s performance at the gig coincided with the release of their debut single In The Summertime, which subsequently became the fastest selling single of its time and an eternally infectious anthem for summer.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Ray Dorset was still working in a Timex factory when In The Summertime took the charts by storm and he had to ask his boss for the afternoon off to appear on Top Of The Pops.
The other original members were Mike Cole on upright bass; Paul King on guitar, kazoo, and jug; Joe Rush playing washboard; and Colin Earl at the keyboards.
Despite an eight-month gap between releases, Mungo Jerry’s second single, Baby Jump, also reached #1.
By this time Mike Cole had been replaced by John Godfrey and their jug band sound had grown appreciably heavier.
A third hit, in 1971, Lady Rose, showed a continued grasp of melody. The maxi-single also included the controversial Have A Whiff On Me which was banned by the BBC.
This successful year concluded with another Top 20 release, You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War. Paul King and Colin Earl left the band in 1972 and together with bass player Joe Rush formed The King Earl Boogie Band.
Dorset released a solo album, Cold Blue Excursions, prior to convening a new line-up with John Godfrey, Jon Pope (piano) and Tim Reeves (drums).
The new line-up had another top three hit in 1973 with Alright Alright Alright (a reinterpretation of Jacques Dutronc’s Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi), but the following year the overtly sexist Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black became the band’s final chart entry.
Dorset continued to work with various versions of his creation into the 80’s but was never able to regain the band’s early profile.
A short-lived collaboration with Peter Green and Vincent Crane under the name Katmundu resulted in the disappointing A Case For The Blues (1986), but Dorset did achieve further success when he produced Feels Like I’m In Love for singer Kelly Marie.
This former Mungo B-side became a UK #1 in August 1980.
Guitar, kazoo, jug