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In The Summertime singer comes to Amersham
DESPITE being the man behind what is probably the biggest summer record of all-time, Ray Dorset still can’t believe it when people stop him on the street.
It is 42 years since the release of Mungo Jerry’s debut single In the Summertime – which shot to number one in 1970 and has since sold more than 40 million copies in its various formats.
Ray thinks his recent recognition rate is all down to You Tube – where millions now watch the band’s old videos at the click of a button.
Everyone knows that clunky rhythm and the first few lines of In the Summertime, but watching Ray on the video brings an instant smile to your face - with his big afro, sideburns and cheeky gap between his two front teeth.
The band had further hits in the early 70s with Lady Rose and Baby Jump before two of Ray’s bandmates tried to sack him but ended up being given the boot themselves by the record company.
Though the group’s line-up then changed repeatedly, Ray remained the constant and hit singles and albums followed at fairly regular intervals.
He also became one of the few stars to hit the number one spot writing songs for himself and another person, when Scottish songstress Kelly Marie recorded Feels Like I’m in Love – which Ray had originally intended for Elvis Presley.
After four decades in the music industry Ray, now 66, is certainly battle-scarred, but still brims with enthusiasm about his job and has been playing to some huge audiences at jazz and blues festivals around the world.
He said: "I’ve had a lot of fights and been ripped off and everything... plenty of legal arguments all throughout my career, which you get with a lot of writers and artists. "You’re selling all these millions of records but you’re not getting the money from it that you’d expect... [In the Summertime] was a bad record deal from the start.
"A lot of people don’t realise what they are signing because I certainly never did... I’m a pretty easy going kind of person but my wife always tells me off saying I trust too many people.... It’s unfortunate but you can’t let that get you down."
But the dad-of-two, who lives in Bournmouth, says modern technology has helped improve the situation for musicians, giving them more freedom and control than they ever used to get in the 70s.
"If you saw the film American Gangster it’s about getting rid of the middle man", he said. "If people have got a good business idea they can use the world wide web to communicate with people all over the place and build a following without the need for a multi-national conglomerate. "And the recording equipment is so good now and so cheap compared to what it used to be in the 70s. Because technology has become so cheap people who probably wouldn’t have had the money to go into a recording studio, but have ideas, can put a record together."
As for In the Summertime, of which reggae star Shaggy recorded a smash-hit cover version, you might think Ray would be sick of performing it after all these years. But he still loves the reaction it gets from audiences: "I love doing it... The way that I work is on spontaneity and reacting to the audience and we kind of go into a reggae version. Lady Rose is always fantastic as well."
Ray has just recorded a cover version of Fairytale of New York with Anita Harris, which is set to be released before Christmas. He plays at Amersham Polish Club on October 13. Tickets are £15 from The Record Shop Ltd in Woodside Road. Call 01494 433311 to book by card.
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