First Endowed Vocal Scholarship Memorializes Local Legend
By Teresa Monaco
Betty Lou “Blu” Cava was a hard-working mother, singer, and an American original. Known for her Billie Holiday-esque vocals (though she had her own distinctive style), Cava performed in numerous San Diego hot spots like the Hideaway Club, Mission Valley Inn, and Guys and Dolls through the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Blu’s passion for music was paralleled only by her drive to succeed and make a better life for her son, Jeffrey Cava. To honor his mother’s memory, Jeffrey Cava (SDSU alumnus) has generously gifted the SDSU School of Music and Dance an endowed scholarship for vocal majors in Blu’s name.
Living in two worlds
Jeffrey Cava uses the words “hard-working” and “driven” frequently when describing his mother. She worked two full-time jobs—five days a week as a program secretary at a local radio station and six nights a week performing at the now historic, Hideaway Club, in Hillcrest. “She was a very unique individual in that she lived in two different worlds, but never changed who she was. She stayed away from the culture of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” while still engaging in the art and passion of the music. She created the highest benchmarks and strongest value structures for me,” Cava explains.
Blu was also a trailblazer, and what some might consider an original feminist, according to Cava. Cava explains how Blu would boldly approach band leaders with her repertoire list in-hand—if her song list aligned with theirs, it was a good fit, and that’s how she got her gigs. “She chose her own booking agent at 20 years old—she was the real deal. Necessity is the mother of invention, hard work, and drive. She was certainly a role model for that,” says Cava.
High expectations and unconditional love
As though two full-time careers weren’t enough to keep Blu busy, she raised her son Jeffrey on her own. When asked about his relationship with his mother, Cava says “No matter who your mother is, she’s always a strong mother figure. She gave me her unconditional love and never once let me down.” He continues on to describe her straightforwardness—if they didn’t have money for something, she would tell him—and her willingness to make sacrifices for their family. “As I got older, I came to respect her so deeply. She was all I had and she never let me down,” Cava says.
When asked how his mother’s music influenced him, Cava replies “I think that’s where she was torn. She bought me my first guitar when I was 10, but she didn’t make music an ultimate goal for me. I think she preferred what I did—pursue a more traditional executive role in business. Education was always at the forefront.”
Jeffrey Cava is also a published and award-winning singer/songwriter, in addition to his career with Starwood Hotels. “Music was always a fickle lover for her. Although she couldn’t leave it, it never played fair with her. She always encouraged my love of music—I sang in choir through high school—but she was demanding of my academic performance,” Cava explains.
Betty Lou “Blu” Cava gave so much to the world—her incredible singing voice, her determination to succeed in a time where women were underestimated, and her unfaltering love as mother to her son Jeffrey. “When mom passed, I was trying to think of what I could do, and what was the right thing to do. It needed to be something that would live on in perpetuity,” says Cava. The Blu Cava Endowed Scholarship will fund talented vocalists in the School of Music and Dance. When asked how Blu would have felt about this gift being made in her name, Cava responds “She’d be thrilled that hardworking, dedicated students who want to be professionals have some support in her name, but she’d also be one of the fiercest critics of their performance. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you still need to work hard.”
If interested in contributing to the Blu Cava Memorial Scholarship Fund, visit: campaign.sdsu.edu/BluCavaNews List