In 1970, Tia Blake was an American teenager living in Paris who stumbled into a recording contract that resulted in a single LP of 11 public domain folk compositions. There was only one live performance in Paris to promote the album’s release, and the next summer Blake left France, never to return and never to record or perform publicly again.
Christina (Tia) Elizabeth Wallman (1952-2015) was a writer, artist, and singer. She was born in Columbus, Ga., and lived much of her life in Montreal and North Carolina.
After graudating high school in 1970, Wallman began working her first job at the New York pubslihing house, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Six months into the job, Wallman quit and moved to Paris. When she arrived in France she stayed with Sicilian fok singer, Benito Merlino, who helped her get a singing audition for the record label SFPP (Societe Francaise de Productions Phonographiques) in Paris. Under the name of Tia Blake, she recorded an LP of American and Irish folk songs with SFPP. The LP, titled Folk Songs and Ballads: Tia Blake and Her Folk-group, was released in February of 1972. The album features an eighteen year old Tia Blake on vocals and Bernard Vendame and Francois Brigot on guitar. The three performed songs from the album a month after its release at the Theatre du Vieux-Colombier in the 6th arrondissement in Paris. This was the only live performance to promote the album’s release. In 1973 Wallman recorded demos and rehersals in Paris alongside a guitarist named Jack (last name unknown). Songs featured in this session include “Betty and Dupree,” “Hangman,” “White Bird,” and “Wish I Was A Single Girl Again.”
In 1976 Tia Wallman was living in Montreal and approached the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) radio station after learning of a general request for original songs from local artists. Soonafter she recorded her own songs at the CBC studio, including “My Father Is A Lonely Man,” “Yellow Hair,” and “Country Boy.” The CBC radio station did not express any interest in the songs and gave the tape of the studio recording to Wallman. Wallman had also previously worked as an off-camera vocalist on a handful of National Film Board of Canada produced films, including Saskatchewan River. She did not perform professionaly after 1976.
In 1989 Wallman graduated magna cum laude from Smith College, where she won the Elizabeth Drew Writing Prize. After graduating from Smith, Wallman became a freelance writer and editor and eventually settled in North Carolina. Her memoir about Saigon was published in the English literary magazine, Granta, in 2006. The memoir, titled “We Went to Saigon,” recounts her and her sisters visit to see their father in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Her ten-minute comedy, co-authored with her mother, Joan Blake, was performed at the 2007 New York Cringe Festival.
Water Music, a record label based in California, reissued Folk Songs and Ballads: Tia Blake and Her Folk-group in 2012. The reissue also contains bonus tracks, including her 1976 recordings at CBC studio in Montreal as well as demos from her 1973 recording session in Paris.