Here we have a whole bunch of memories of fans and former band members about Mungo Jerry with the latest, a contribution from Jon Playle, bass player with Ray for 16 years!
JON PLAYLE on joining Mungo Jerry… “16 years playing with Ray – my first gig with Ray was in late 2002. I was in a covers band with Alan Johnson, and we backed Ray for a gig at a nightclub in Blandford. The second was a testimonial gig in St Helens (think there is a recording somewhere!!).
“I had always played with set lists and song arrangements and I remember doing a lot of prep for them, though as I learnt, as long as you know the basics of the songs, the rest was free depending on how Ray was feeling and how the groove was and the audience’s involvement in the songs.
“Coming from a Soul/Funk/Rock background, I can truly say that playing with Ray has improved my musicianship and adaptability as a performer.
“I think it was around 2005/6 when I became part of Ray’s permanent line up after a few years of occasional ‘dep band’ gigs. Every gig was different, you never knew how it would go, no rehearsals, no set list (though to be fair, I can count the rehearsals on one hand, and equally the number of times we had a set list). However that ‘jazz’ approach helped keep things fresh, reacting and supporting all members of the band.”
…on the Heini Altbart gigs… “Interesting and busy times in 2010-12 when Ray and I teamed up with Heini Altbart and Helmut Posch for many European gigs, and I still remember the first gig with them in Luxembourg. I was on holiday and got a call from Ray on a Wednesday asking if I wanted to play on the Saturday, on the same bill as Tower of Power. It was a no brainer, so booked my flights. I didn’t know anything about them and quickly took on the role of MD for those gigs.
“Heini is a predominantly a swing jazz drummer and Helmut a classically trained pianist, so the mix of our different musical backgrounds gave a new, different flavour to Ray’s songs, though lost some of the ‘rawness’ that I know Ray likes.
“Ray used to pick me up on the way to the airport for these gigs and there was a running joke with my friends that I used to be collected in a Bentley and my chauffeur was Mungo Jerry!
“Obviously, Ray and I travelled a lot together and got to know each other well building a friendship that lasts to this day.”
…on his best memories… “Every gig was different though the same, as I always knew to expect the unexpected, but the best memories are from the 2016 spring tour (24 days DVD).
“As a 4-piece, we were very tight right from the outset, the groove was there, the audiences were awesome, the banter within the band and crew was on form. No two gigs were the same, songs had different arrangements each night ‘on the fly’, some played in completely different styles and again no two sets were the same.
“From a personal observation about that tour, I think Ray felt completely free to go wherever he wanted to musically knowing we, as a band, would be there for him. OK, occasionally it didn’t work, but it certainly encouraged the psychedelic feel to some of the songs and took them to new places.
“There were also a few Spinal Tap moments, which are funny in hindsight, but will keep them under wraps!”
…on playing with different band members… “In my time with Mungo, I have been fortunate to play with previous band members at different times.
“Mike Cole joined us for a few UK gigs which Bruce Brand played on as well. Paul King joined us on stage at Weyfest one year for a few songs. John Cook played with us for a while including the Loose Women TV recording. All brought a different style and take on the music.”
…on his playing style… “On my personal playing approach, I play for the songs, knowing the place for bass in each song – the groove, the melody/counter melody, feel. It can be just playing a single note, keeping the groove going, knowing whether to push the song, or lay it back for a more relaxed feel, or to add interest with appropriate fills, knowing when to leave space, all to guide and give life to the song through its journey. All done in conjunction with the other musicians who are playing with me.
“It’s important to have the tools in your playing arsenal to have the ability to achieve this. Technique, theory and feel.
“However, with all these tools at hand, probably the most important is to listen. To how the song is evolving, what the other band members are playing, and to the audience as well.”
MIKE COLE on the days before In The Summertime… “The main thing was that we always used to go down very well – exceptionally well much of the time – at live performances. I say we, but it was mostly down to Ray. Whatever the audience, it was never a problem getting them going. So we just gigged around and had a good time basically, travelling around in the Transit.”
…and after… “things certainly changed, I joined the band in October ’69 as I recall, and we spent the next two or three months gigging around.
“Just prior to Christmas we went into the studio and then had another one or two further sessions in January. We completed the first album and carried on gigging just as before. At that time, we were doing probably about two or three gigs a week.
“Then came the Hollywood Music Festival which coincided with the maxi-single release. The real change took place during the Hollywood weekend. On Saturday morning we were unknowns, by Sunday we were ‘stars’.
“Suddenly people were queuing up to interview us, photograph us, book us, wine and dine us and so on.
“The subsequent release of the single was exciting of course but to me it seemed, at the time, like a continuation of the whole process.”
‘BIZZ’…on the recording studio… “The recording studio was a place that was pretty boring if you’re not involved in it. Luckily, we didn’t do that many rehearsals when we were on the road, ’cause that’s another thing that’s a bore if you’re not really involved.
“Proper rock’n roll bands, as they say, don’t rehearse, it’s all the raw live sound which they always produced well.
“I did like the bands sounds, but it came over better during live performances than on records. Not having a drummer, and with Ray and Paul seated, the line-up was different from the usual group.
“Also, the mixture of old blues, negro songs, jug band music plus Ray’s and Paul’s numbers. There was quite a good variety.
…studio work… “If you’re just sitting there for hours on end, and the sessions often went on to the early hours of the morning, it can become a bit of a bore.
“My particular bits that I did, backing vocals and the recorder bit on Memoirs Of a Stockbroker. That was obviously a bit frightening if you’re not a musician, everybody looking at you through the glass at the top.
“I didn’t get paid a session fee for doing it, when it was mentioned to Barry Murray, the producer, he said as it took so long to do it, I should pay them”!
BARRY MURRAY on The Good Earth… “Our Red Bus offices had The Temple, (formerly The Flamingo) in the basement. They weren’t going too well at the time, so I persuaded them to hold some all-nighters to promote some of our artists, a sort of underground scene.
“The Good Earth used to come on stage at about 3.30 a.m when it was getting really mellow and they would tear the place apart – it was infectious, real energy!
…on Lady Rose… “Lady Rose, what a great song, and you know it was going to be the third No.1 until some pillock stood up in the House Of Commons and said his piece. What got me was that the ‘Beeb’ had played Have a Whiff On Me five times in the last year from live sessions, before they shit themselves.
“Pye wanted to change the track listing for the maxi, they just lost their bottle. I thought it should have stayed, after all, it was a traditional song but the time in repressing cost it dear, as it does in this business.
…on Ray Dorset… “When it comes to rock ‘n roll, there aren’t that many English songwriters that can compare to the Americans, writing songs for the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. Ray Dorset could, he was the best this side of the water, that’s where the idea for the All Dressed Up, Rock’n Roll E.P came from, to show what he could do.
“The only person I thought could compare to Ray at that time was John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival.”
JOE RUSH on joining The Good Earth… “We decided, we got chatting, we worked together as you know, we got talking about the blues and people I’d met and knew. We decided to have a bit of a bash in the car park at lunchtimes, in the summer, sitting in the sun, over the back of the car park on the grass.
Then somebody I knew in the local pub had a pub in Isleworth, The Northumberland Arms in the old square there.
Things went really well, me and Ray started playing on our own there, and then he said he knew a piano player, which was Colin who came in.
…on leaving The Good Earth… “I don’t know if I was a bit unsettled in those days, but I left the band. It was a shame really I suppose. Looking back I knew I wouldn’t have survived, or perhaps the band would never have broken up. I don’t think Paul, in those days, if I was in the band would have stayed too long”.
Click HERE for our full interview with Joe Rush.
COLIN EARL on the early days… “We decided to get together with Joe Rush (washboard and traps player and double bass thumper). We started doing a gig at the Northumberland Arms, Isleworth – it worked!”
…on the first radio play… “I remember the first play on any radio station we got was Wally Whyton’s ‘Country Meets Folk’ on Radio 2. He played Dust Pneumonia Blues. I was very happy about that, somebody knew what we were about. Then it got crazy!”
…the Rotterdam Festival… “The biggest festival we did was Rotterdam (estimated 500,000). The cover picture of Electronically Tested is from that gig. Even the trees were full of people and they swayed in time as we played!”
…on Lady Rose… “Lady Rose was a deserved hit. The BBC having made yet another corporate fool of itself by banning it as soon as someone heard Have a Whiff On Me on the B-side. A few years previously, they had of course made a hit of Lonnie Donegan’s Have a Drink On Me version. Ours was a faithful rendition of the song. Totally in character with the band and its heritage. Castrate it and we’ll play it!”
PAUL KING on Mungo Jerry… “I came back (from travelling) and started playing my new songs ’round the pubs and clubs. One day, I walked into the Master Robert Motel, heard music sweet to my ears and the rest is history.”
…the image… “In the early 70’s with Mungo, we had the lot. The image, the songs, the ultimate success. We were being treated as a novelty band by the press; that maybe, but we were still the best live band around”
…the contracts… “We had the ‘misfortune’ if you like of having our first single, without knowing really, all the different avenues where the royalties come from. P.R.S for instance was totally new to me, and I can’t be sure but due to certain contracts , I think that Ray lost or never received all of the money for In The Summertime.
“We would have been better to have had a couple of minor hits before the big one in order to reap the full benefit. I believe we were only on 1% between the four of us where the norm’ now is 12%. Through being naïve and somewhat exploited we lost out a great deal. Ray more than anyone else.”
“There is no animosity, just sadness really. Had we stayed together, as the original outfit and changed as we needed to, we could still be going now.”
TIM REEVES…on his first Mungo gig… “My first gig was at a Uni’ in middle England. Went well, but the third at Goldsmith College in London was a shambles.
“I could not hear anything, rowdy angry crowd, including some angry squaddies from the Army who did not take kindly to Ray’s song, You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War. I had some old friends come to the gig, and I remember being really down about the show afterwards. So much for Tim’s new found fame!
…on Boot Power… “Boot Power was a nice album. My Girl & Me, I liked Jon Pope’s organ on that , if you get my drift. I would play it if I could get a copy! Thinking of the cover art, I remember the first time I held the album in my hand was driving into Rio, passing feavalors on either side of the road.
“That was a great trip, playing live to 250 million on T.V. ‘Tim’ managed to break one of his drumsticks and having no spares, dashed backstage and grabbed from the hand of a waiting percussionist, his pair of sticks!”
…on returning to the band in ’73… “I left the band in ’72 before Christmas,’cos I had fallen in love/lust with a Finnish girl living in Stockholm.
“The way the management treated the rest of the band was a joke. I just decided not to return, having hated English Christmas’s since birth, in Sweden it was like a fantasy!
“I was living in Muswell Hill with said girlfriend about a year later when I had a phone call informing me that the drummer had broken his ankle. Mungo called again urgently needing a drummer for a Scandinavian tour. It took me the time it takes to blink and I was back, now with John Cook on keys and was introduced to Bob (Daisley) who I took to on first sight.
“The tour was heaps of fun, the boys took advantage of every chance for a ‘lerf and flunder’. It would be fair to say that ‘Tim and Bob’ went through a lot and shared many a story. We were 23 or so, cute and confident and very cocky (pun intended)!
“I, at that time in the ’70’s was very much into the Keith Moon ‘school of demolition’ and firmly believed that it was the drummer’s duty to play up and be insane. I have always drunk to be drunk, and my consumption, one bottle before, one during, and a few more Blue Nun Whites after, inflamed a massive energy.
…the 1973 Irish tour… “Ireland was indeed crazy! Even Phil Lynott, who I shared a piss with at the Speakeasy was impressed with the various shenanigans. What can I say now, as a 60 year old sober man about those times? Well apart from a few times when others got hurt, I would not change a damn thing!
“Having the time of your life, if only I had realised that the music, and the drums were more important than the shaggin’ an’ crashin’!”
BOB DAISLEY…on being in the band… I look back in fondness on the days of all the bands I’ve been in, including Mungo. Many a good gig, good drink and much fun!
…on Top Of The Pops… “Yeah! It was a buzz for me, as a youngster to do TOTP but we were pissed then too! I wasn’t big on anything poppy but it was a great life experience”.
…on Alright Alright Alright… “The ‘Alright’ recording session is a bit of a blur. We drank a lot and had fun doing it and were pleased with the outcome. I didn’t like the ‘doop-doop, doopy-doop-doops’ and the ‘poppy’ outcome personally but it did well”!
…on not playing In The Summertime during his time in the band… “I can’t remember not playing ‘Summertime’ but there are probably lots of things I don’t remember! But it was all fun and looking back, a great experience”.
DICK MIDDLETON…on joining Mungo Jerry… “I was playing with Hurricane and made an album, the producer – Barry Murray!
“Then I was asked to join Mungo. I was nearly 30 then and yes it was great fun, but a bit out of control with Dave and Bob!!!”
…on Top Of The Pops… I was amazed how TOTP’s worked. Arrive at 9 am and there all day just to mime. Although Ray did sing live. When we did Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black, there was an unheard of band on that asked for my autograph….ABBA! They were doing the Eurovision Song Contest!”
…on the ’74 line-up not recording an album… “We worked! i.e: gigs, tours all the time. I would love to have had the chance to record an album.
PAUL HANCOX…on Alright Alright Alright and influencing Simon Baker… “Interestingly, it was a bit of a disaster. I had a huge battle with him (Barry Murray) about drum sounds. He wanted a pop machine, I played drums! We had a huge argument – I won!
“After Bob and I laid the backing track, as we wanted, we went down the pub and got completely trashed!
“On returning to the studio, we had to record the B-side, to this day, I don’t remember playing it. I think if Bob were honest, he doesn’t either!
“It was the ultimate in ‘Rock meets Pop’. I know that Ray was a little nervous about the heavy rhythm patterns, but it was how I heard and played it. It hasn’t dated at all – that’s when you know it was right!
“I’m delighted to hear that I influenced an up and coming musician, that’s a real complement, thank you.
CHRIS WARNES on the Impala Saga line-up and his time in the band… “The line-up with John, Jim and Ian was more rocky than the original line up that Ray had. If you listen to the Impala Saga album, I think you would agree.
“It was great playing with the lads, although it was short-lived really. About one year with them.
“I carried on playing with Mungo Jerry after this time with Pete Sullivan, Colin Earl and Joe Rush for about three years. All were great times and ‘Bizz’ was such a character. It’s funny how the band changed to suit the gig.
“One night we might be playing at a University wearing jeans, (sorry flares) and a t-shirt. The next would find us playing one of the Baileys Clubs (cabaret) in white suits and all smart like.”
TIM GREEN…on the Snakebite album… “Very rocky, with Jamei Roberts on drums, Les Calvert on bass, not forgetting Steve Jones on keyboards. I still like that album a lot.”
…on the Katmandu album, A Case For The Blues… “I was visiting Ray when he lived in Farnham. He told me that Peter (Green) had given him a call. I thought it would be great if Ray could record with Peter.
“What a mixture of great musicians, a sort of “best of” British blues line up. I also helped construct the first record deal for the album.”
…on Candy Dreams… “That was slightly different music from Ray which gave me a chance to try some different styles of guitar playing that during the course of the normal live work I don’t always have the chance to play.”
ALAN JOHNSON on joining the band…“Tim Green couldn’t easily make it over to England, and there were a load of English gigs to do.
“After my first gig ‘depping’, Ray supplied me with a gig sheet for the whole year, which included gigs in Germany and Switzerland. It went from there.”
…on memorable gigs… “There was a gig in Switzerland for the Bikers Clubhouse where we played for FIVE HOURS!. Everyone was having such a great time, it just went on and on…”
…on a ‘little’ mistake… “I was asked to join Iron Maiden in the early days but turned it down – we all make mistakes!!!
…on playing with Mungo Jerry… “Good fun! He’s a great guy and a good friend.”
STEVE JONES…on his favourite Mungo song… “When you perform songs very regularly over a number of years, favourites change a lot.
“Songs can get tired with too much playing. Ray’s approach to gigging is to do what he feels is right at any given moment. This means that he might decide to perform a song differently from time to time, as the mood may take him. Predictably, In The Summertime has taken many forms. But it’s one song that always has the desired effect.
“It’s amazing how it’s survived so much exposure and still feels good to play.”
…on meeting Ray… “I first met Ray through the Dawn label connection. Heron’s producer mentioned to me, ’72 I think, that Mungo was looking for a keyboard player.
“I went to an audition, got the gig as far as I know but didn’t actually play with them until 1989. Les Calvert worked with me in various bands from 1967 but I lost touch with him some time in the late 70’s/early 80’s.
“We passed each other in the street one day in ’89 and shortly after he rang me to see if I was free to work with Mungo.
“I was, so with no rehearsal, I did my first Mungo Jerry gig at The Cartoon Club within a couple of weeks. The line-up was Ray, Jamei Roberts, Les, Al Johnson and myself and soon I was gigging quite regularly.”
SIMON BAKER…on In The Summertime… “When In The Summertime came out, I was 12 years old. Irrespective of whether you regard Mungo as a one hit wonder, which I didn’t really think they were, because they had other hits, my favourite being Alright Alright Alright. That is my favourite Mungo record.
“I was learning to play then, and it had that really quite nice, swinging, natty piece of drumming. It really stuck in my brain. I never really regarded them as the novelty act that so many other people do. It came as a big shock to actually start doing it. But it was one of those formative sounds that you heard at a particular time. When you are at a particular age. When you start to take notice of what is going on around you. Alright Now was another record that had the same sort of emotive feel to it.
“In The Summertime was a very, very important record. I think it was for a lot of other people too”.
MICK FRAMPTON…on joining Mungo Jerry… “In 1984, I was at a party in town, very drunk. Somebody asked me to drive some amps to a gig the next day. I said, yes, no problem!
“When I arrived at The Cartoon Club, in Croydon, posters for Mungo Jerry were everywhere. This was the first time I met Ray Dorset. I set up the gear, drums, amps, tuned instruments and got beer for the band.
Glen Lee (drummer), Dave Mitchell (axe), Ray Davies (bass).
“When the show was over, Ray Dorset (‘Mungo’), asked me to become the permanent roadie. I said yes, and that started the long and good friendship I have had with ‘Mungo’.
“The long road of learning to set up the equipment, amps and P.A gear, in and out of the van, to and from the gigs, picking everybody up, and taking them home again had started.”
…on learning the bass on route to a gig… “Once when I was collecting the band, Ray Davies said he was ill and could not go. Ray decided that I would have to take his place….aaarrgh!!!
“Ray taught me the bass guitar on the way up to Scotland in the back of the van. I had never played before, but Ray was calm and patient when teaching the basics.
“My first time on stage was a ‘three pairs of underpants’ gig! It was fantastic, not my playing, but the adulation of the crowd. I was totally hooked, I wanted more and got it…for the next sixteen years!”
…on Ray Dorset… “Ray Dorset is a bit like a snake charmer, Sharman, a voodoo puppet master, he makes the crowd do exactly what he wants.
“He makes girls cry, and grown men fight. At the end of it all, he bows, he smiles and he says goodnight…don’t expect to stay in your seat at a MUNGO gig!”