Mungo Jerry are a British rock group who experienced their greatest success in the early 1970s, with a changing line-up that has always been fronted by Ray Dorset. The group's name was inspired by the poem "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer", from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The group's biggest hit was "In the Summertime". They had nine charting singles in the UK, including two number ones, and five top 20 hits in South Africa.
Mungo Jerry came to prominence in 1970 after their performances at the Hollywood Festival at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, on 23-24 May, which was their first gig under this name, alongside Black Sabbath, Traffic, Ginger Baker's Air Force, the Grateful Dead (their first performance in the UK) and José Feliciano. Their 23 May show was well received and the organisers asked them to perform again on the following day. The band's first single, "In the Summertime", the first maxi-single in the world, released on 22 May, entered the UK charts at No. 13 and the following week went straight to No. 1. Ray Dorset had to ask his boss for time off to do the UK TV Show Top of the Pops.
Ray Dorset and Colin Earl had previously been members of The Good Earth. Bassist Dave Hutchins left to join Bobby Parker's band and the drummer was dismissed so Dorset and Earl decided to fulfil the one remaining gig, an Oxford University Christmas Ball in December 1968, as a three-piece with Joe Rush, one of Dorset's colleagues, on double bass. Also on the bill was Miller Anderson, making his debut as a singer and guitarist, and Mick Farren and the Social Deviants. Though booked for only one set, Good Earth were asked to perform another after the bands had finished, playing a selection of American folk/blues/skiffle/jug band music from Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie and others, and some of Dorset's songs.
The trio played more gigs and landed a regular slot at the Master Robert Motel in Osterley, Middlesex, where they soon built up a following, including banjo, guitar and blues harp player Paul King who eventually joined the band, making it a four-piece.
After Rush left, Mike Cole was recruited on double bass, and this line-up recorded the first seventeen Mungo Jerry tracks which made up the first album and maxi-single including "In the Summertime". When they made their national debut at the Hollywood Festival, Rush joined them on stage for some numbers to play washboard. The record topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks, made No. 1 in 26 countries around the world and to date has sold around 30 million copies
According to Joseph Murrell's The Book of Golden Discs (1978), "Mungomania" was possibly the most startling and unpredictable pop phenomenon to hit Britain since The Beatles.