School’s out for the Summer

Amelia Merhar, better known in the Yukon music scene as Big Mama Lele, 

ended her Graduation Tour on May 10 in Fairbanks. The occasion? She’s finally 

graduated university. Those familiar with her “FOMO Song” know why her 

graduation warrants an international tour. 

“I’ve been changing the major of my bachelors since 2004,” she jokes. “Ten 

years, six universities, three countries, one piece of paper.”However, finally 

obtaining her degree is only one reason for the tour. Merhar also has new songs 

to promote. During her tour she played eleven new songs, from two different 

new albums. 

Why break 11 songs into two albums? 

“GDFC seemed like a natural fit, and these are older songs. Singles are my 

newer songs that I wrote last summer and fall when I was living in Alaska,” she 

says. “They just didn’t conceptually work together in my mind for one full 

album. They’re a totally different story.”Still, there are some commonalities 

between the two albums. Merhar is known for playing raunchy, blues-inspired 

songs on her metallic resonator ukulele, and these songs are found on both 

CDs. “Big Jugs”, “High Bush”, and “Whiskey Dick Blues” are worthy of classic 

country blues vocalists Lucille Bogan and Lil Johnson. “Whiskey Dick Blues” 

features a nice blue riff not usually heard on a uke.Her other songs contain 

comic observations from a feminist perspective. “My Green Cabin” infuses the 

romance of the simple, stripped down life of the Yukon myth with harsh, rude 

reality. ”Do I Look Fat in This?” is popular at Big Mama Lele shows. It teases 

that dreaded question of male-female relationships with a uniquely feminist 

and self-affirming answer, “YES!” 

Merhar repudiates our culture of body-shaming, replacing it with acceptance. 

“I call myself Big Mama/Because I’m done with being ashamed/Of who I am 

each and every day.”Accompanying her on these songs are singer Ashton Grey, 

who worked on Merhar’s previous CD, Letters are Better and co-wrote “Whiskey 

Dick Blues”; and guitarist Alex Machidon, who adds some body and low-end to 

these ukulele-dominated tracks. Machidon is also part of Merhar’s new group, 

Big Mama Lele and the One Night Band, with Patrick Docherty from The 

Midnight Sons.  Merhar is releasing GCFC, named for the ukelele chords that 

make-up most of her songs, in a limited edition, with handmade covers, each 

with a different collage image and title. 

“Collages are a really fun, spontaneous medium. I like art-forms that are 

limited.” She lists a few of the titles: “Great Day For a Cycle”, “Good 

Decorating with Feng-shui Comfort”, “Generating Discourse in a Feminist 

Context”, “Grimy”, and “Dashing Francophone Coeur-de-bois”.Although the 

Graduation Tour stopped in Fairbanks, Big Mama Lele and the One Night Band 

will be back for an extended end-of-tour gig in Whitehorse. They play the Gold 

Pan Saloon on May 23.Both albums are available at Dean’s Strings, and online at, where GDFC is listed as Good Ditties, Four 

Chords. Outstanding Tracks: “Do I Look Fat In This?” & “Don’t Walk In Between 

the Tracks.”   

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