Katy de la Cruz
|Katy de la Cruz|
Catalina de la Cruz|
February 13, 1907
Bustos, Bulacan, Philippine Islands
November 10, 2004 (aged 97)|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
FAMAS Best Supporting Actress|
Katy de la Cruz (born Catalina de la Cruz; February 13, 1907 – November 10, 2004) was a leading Filipino singer who specialized in jazz vocals and torch songs in a performing career that lasted eight decades. Hailed as "The Queen of Filipino Jazz" and as "The Queen of Bodabil", she was, by the age of 18, the highest paid entertainer in the Philippines. De la Cruz also appeared in films and received a FAMAS Best Supporting Actress Award in 1953. One of the famous musicians at that time was Emman.
Catalina de la Cruz was born in Bustos, Bulacan. Even as a young child, de la Cruz would be hired to sing at town fiestas, and at intermissions during cockfights and boxing matches. Her formal schooling ended at the third grade.
In 1914, when she was seven years old, she was hired by the owner of a Manila film theater to sing to the audiences in between movie screenings. Such performances were typical in Manila theaters during that period, and from those routines would emerge a distinct genre eventually known as bodabil. She learned her songs through listening to phonograph records, and mastered the English language with the help of her brother.
By the age of thirteen, de la Cruz was a rising star in the bodabil circuit, performing alongside other leading stage performers such as Atang de la Rama. She soon became a solo headliner, performing in Manila's largest theaters such as the Savoy, the Palace, and the Lux. By 1925, de la Cruz was the highest paid entertainer in the Philippines. She fell in love, and later married, the piano player of her stage show. Some of the chorus girls who performed alongside her onstage, such as Chichay, Etang Discher, and Mary Walter, later become prominent entertainers in their own right.
Initially, her signature tune was the bluesy ballad St. Louis Blues. After jazz became popular in the Philippines in the 1920s, de la Cruz adapted her singing style and soon mastered the art of scat singing, which became a trademark of hers. By the 1930s, de la Cruz would be most identified with the song Balut, a fast-paced jazzy tune written by Jerry Brandy. Her take on the song, which afforded her to showcase her scatting ability, has been described as impish and rustic, rounded out by her low, playfully dragging key. A slightly bawdy take, called "Balut", named for a notorious Filipino culinary delicacy of the same name, remains popular to date, with versions performed by the New Minstrels, Pilita Corrales, and Lani Misalucha.
She also occasionally acted in films, most prominently in Inspirasyon (1953), for which she received the FAMAS Best Supporting Actress Award in 1953. Many of her films were for Sampaguita Pictures.
As bodabil slowly declined, de la Cruz concentrated on concert performances and international tours. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, she was a top-billed performer at the famed Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco. In 1961, she starred in her own stage show in Las Vegas. De la Cruz also performed concert tours in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and Hawaii.
De la Cruz eventually retired to San Francisco, California, though she would occasionally perform until the late 1980s. In 1989, she visited the Philippines to attend the premiere at the Cultural Center of the Philippines of Katy!, a highly publicized stage musical based on her life.
Produced by Celeste Legaspi & GR Rodis, Katy! starred Pokwang in the title role, and its music was composed by Ryan Cayabyab with lyrics by Jose Javier Reyes. During this visit, the eighty-two-year-old de la Cruz appeared on several Philippine television programs, performing her signature tune Balut.
Ill health caused de la Cruz to retire from public life in the 1990s. She died on November 10, 2004, at the age of 97.
Of de la Cruz's four children, her daughter Angie followed her into showbusiness, pairing with Nikki Ross to form Wing Duo, a singing tandem that was popular on the bodabil circuit and on film during the 1950s.
Two of her four children joined her in the show business, Angie and Veronica. Both children dropping out of college two months before graduation to perform in Thailand.
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- Doreen Fernandez (1994). "Philippine Theater". In Nicanor Tiongson. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. VII (1st ed.). Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines. pp. 68–70. ISBN 971-8546-30-8.