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Doctor Pop

December 2009

By day, John Merry is a Wollaton GP dealing with health problems.
But by night, his stethoscope comes off and around his neck hangs a guitar as he becomes Elbow Jake, country rocker.
And he's no novelty act.
"I've had a really nice review in the latest edition of Maverick, the country music magazine and my album was chosen as album of the week on UK Country Radio," said the 46-year-old doctor, who works at the Wollaton Vale Health Centre.
"I do hope people enjoy what I do."
He has been working as a full-time GP in Wollaton for the past 20 years and for many of them, after a hard day at work, he'd lounge on the sofa in front of the telly with a beer.
But then, on his 30th birthday, wife Debra bought him a guitar.
"She knew it was something I'd always wanted," he said.
"I'd never bought myself one because I thought if I couldn't play like Eric Clapton in the first six weeks I'd lose interest."
He didn't. Since then Dr Merry has recorded 100 songs, released an album and played numerous gigs, including the main stage at the Americana Festival, in Newark.
"It just shows you're never too old to enjoy a new hobby," he said.
Initially, he played around Notts with blues bands.
"It took me some lessons and a couple of years before I was sufficiently competent to play in public," he said.
His first gig was at The White Hart in Beeston.
"The band I was in hired the top room and we invited all the people we knew. There were around 100 who turned up. It was a bit of a racket."
But he got the bug.
"There's no better feeling than being in a band that's cooking on gas," he said. "If you get a crowd up and dancing, you feel really great.
"I can never understand why musicians use drugs because there's no better buzz."
That said, John, who goes under the name of Elbow Jake, doesn't play so much these days.
"Working for a living, it was getting difficult. I was getting to the stage of thinking 'Oh God, I've got to play that gig tonight'. So I got more into writing and recording in my home studio.
"I still veg out in front of Coronation Street, but other times I'll go in the studio.
"At 11.30pm the missus is knocking at the door saying 'do you know what time it is'?
He added: "When she bought me the guitar a friend told her she'd never forgive herself. She frequently reminds me of that."
His patients are aware of his musical pursuits.
"They've seen me play a few times. Last year, I had a residency in the local pub, Middleton's, and you'd see them looking at you thinking 'I know that bloke from somewhere'."
He added: "A few of my patients do like what I do. I can spend 10 minutes taking to them about music. And I often tell patients to do something like playing music as a way of relieving stress."
He took the name Elbow Jake from a line in The Beatles song For You Blue, but his style is country rock with a touch of blues, along the lines of The Eagles and Neil Young.
But John has no aspirations to be a star. "You can be old and fat as a country star but I don't think I fancy it. I like being a doctor.
"Although, if somebody said to me 'you can do a six-week tour of the United States, supporting The Eagles', I might be tempted."

Too Many Times is available to buy from John's website or as a download from Amazon and iTunes, for £3.99.

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