What’s your story with Taco Land?
I started going to Taco Land when I was roughly about 16 years old. This was in the mid-’80s. It was probably early ’84. I was still in school, and I went with a friend because we’d heard about this place and [there were] local rock ’n’ roll bands. We went in, and the first thing that happened was Ram came over to us and goes, “Hey, dudes, I need some ID.” We just kind of looked at each other, we’re just a couple of dumb kids looking for rock ’n’ roll music. We didn’t hang out in bars, certainly, at that age. So I remember my friend turned around and walked back outside, and I told him that we were there just to see the music and would it be OK if we stayed and watched the band? [Ram] said, “Yeah, as long as I don’t catch you with a beer. Don’t drink a beer in my place.” So that was it. The few times I went before I turned of age, never had any problems and never drank a beer, as I had promised him, until I was of drinking age. I think he understood that I respected that. He always treated me like I was a kid he had known for years, which is like he treated everybody. He gave almost everybody that shot. You’re a friend until you prove otherwise. Through the years I just went to Taco Land off and on for years and years and in ’85, ’86, I started booking some occasional shows at different little clubs. Eventually, that led to the idea of putting a band in Taco Land here and there. So I booked a couple shows at Taco Land along the way.
Oh, I did a little Southern Culture On The Skids in ’94, I believe. Around ’91 or ’92 I had a band called the Vomit Spots from Mobile, Alabama. … In fact, one of [Jeff Smith] old bands was on that bill, and that was maybe ’91 or ’92. … Anyway, that’s just where I started with Taco Land. I’d go in there any time I could. I’d try to go in the afternoon or early evening and just sit at the bar. That’s the time you could really visit with Ram, when there wasn’t a show going on and he wasn’t behind the bar doing business yet. He had a lot more time in the afternoons … You could sit at the bar and shoot the breeze with him. I saw so many shows there through the years, just great memories and great comfortable hangout — very much a family atmosphere. …
So you met Ram mainly at the bar?
Yeah. I never hung out with him, never was even at the little after-hours things that Ram was at or anything. Just knew him at the bar. The only family member that I knew or that I ever saw in there or that was ever pointed out as family was Tina Cruz. She was the wife. I’d see her in there every once in a while. I remember Ram called her “Buck.” That was the only name I ever knew her under. Tina explained to me later that “Tina” in Spanish is actually the word for “bucket.” But that’s all I ever knew. I’d see her, but I don’t recall that I ever had any conversations with her over those years. That was it. He would talk about his kids. Every so often he’d mention something about “his son this” or “his daughter this,” but I didn’t really know anything about his family life. You’d hear him say something about a son or a daughter, but I had no idea who they were or how many kids he had. I just knew that he had kids because he would bring up something about his kids here or there. He was going to fix his daughter’s car or one thing or another.
So he thought everyone knew he had two families or do you think he never wanted to talk about it in great detail?
I didn’t know what the family dynamic was. Of course, I’d converse with him and listen to everything he said. Ram was not one to mince words about anything, but I had no business with his life.
How did the Ram Jam begin?
Over a period of several years it just got to be a tradition that, on Ram’s birthday, April 10, or on the closest weekend, usually the second weekend of April, Ram would have somebody in there to tend bar on that weekend so that he wouldn’t have to. He’d just hang out and party and have a bunch of his favorite bands. People would bring him a bottle or people would bring him a gift, and it just became known over several years that Ram’s Birthday Weekend was the Taco Land party of all the parties. It was just Ram’s birthday weekend; I don’t necessarily know that it was ever anything official. It just kind of became that. After the shootings, with those birthday weekends being what they were and being such a happy time and such a defining Taco Land event, the first thing I did in talking with Tina, I said that we should put together something, some sort of a musical memorial. I’d been booking bands in San Antonio for years and years. I booked bands for several years for Sam’s Burger Joint. I booked at the same place when it was Billy Blue’s back in the ’90s. I love music. I book shows, and I guess I do the job of a talent buyer and a publicist and all those different things out of necessity, just to make sure that they get done. … Right now I’m working a day job, too. I do graphic design, I do mostly concert posters and CD packaging, things like that. I do the posters each year for the Austin Music Awards, just a lot of music-related stuff. … I’m entirely about packaging. … In August of 2006, just two months after [Ram’s death], I put together a tribute, sort of a memorial show at the Josephine Theatre.
How did you find out of Ram’s death?
I fell asleep watching the Spurs game that night. I woke up to a news alert, a special report breaking in just the second I opened my eyes. It said “police are on hand, there’s been a shooting on Grayson.” They showed an aerial view from a helicopter. It was real dark and I was trying to make it out. They said it was a little bar on Grayson St., and I was kind of straining to see where it was because they never said the address or the name of the bar. Finally, I just realized that it kind of looked like Taco Land, or at least that corner. I threw my shoes on and jumped in the car and drove down there. It took me a little over five or 10 minutes to get down there, and all I could think along the way was, if it was at Taco Land, I’m hoping it was a random thing and a couple of drunks that got into something. Either way, you don’t want to see something like that. You especially don’t want to see it at a friend’s place, somebody you care about and a business you care about. I got down there and the place was just surrounded by police cars, and the front door was open. I parked across the street and kind of got into the best position I could to see into the door. All these things went through my head. Did a couple guys get into an argument and a shooting happened? Did somebody try to rob the place and Ram shot him? Everything went through my mind except Ram being shot. That wasn’t even a thought. In my eyes and in, I’m sure, a lot of other people’s eyes, you would never think about that. Ram had gone through health problems. He had gone through his heart problems and different things, and we looked at Ram as he was always there. He was always going to be there. Ram was, in some ways, indestructible. I never got over there into a position where I could really see inside except for just inside the door. You saw that there were a lot of cops outside and a lot of cops inside, as well. This was taking place probably between 1 and 2. As things were happening, I just kept expecting to see Ram walk out and cussing at one of these guys for all these people trampling through his place while he was trying to do business. Something that would be typical of Ram. I never saw it. I saw a cameraman from KABB that I remembered having seen at a couple other events. I walked over to him and said, “What happened? Who was shot?” He said, “Well, there were three people shot.” He said that the cops said it was two patrons and one employee. There weren’t many employees or people that would even be considered employees. It was a very small close-knit thing. I said, “Really? Well, who was the employee?” He just kind of looked back at me and seemed hesitant to say. He goes, “Well, that wasn’t the case,” meaning that wasn’t the case that it was an employee and two patrons. Well he seemed hesitant, so obviously the cops didn’t have the exact facts of who the people were. So I said, “Who was it?” He said that Sunshine and Doug were both shot, so I asked, “Who was the patron?” figuring that, if it was Sunshine and Doug, maybe there was one patron. He said, “It wasn’t a patron. It was Ram.” I just couldn’t believe it. He said, “I think they killed him.” I guess just before I got there, the ambulance had taken him to BAMC [Brooke Army Medical Center]. I was just stunned, it was a very surreal moment.
From there, I hung out a few minutes, kind of wanting to know, “Did they catch the person that did it?” Another gal showed up that had been a regular at Taco Land in later years and wanted to know what had happened, and I told her what this cameraman had told me. Her name is Nita, I don’t know what her last name is. She showed up and I told her what had happened. She was crying, and she was really upset. So we went over to BAMC from there, and once we got on the site, it took a while to figure out where you were going. Eventually we got to the waiting room and there were family members there. This was probably about 2:30 or 3 in the morning. When we got there, the Cruz family was there and there were a couple other people that were either friends or patrons. I had seen them in Taco Land but I didn’t know them personally. I think, if I remember correctly, it was Tina, Mark, and Eddie who were all three there. I saw a couple other folks that I recognized.
Is it possible that Mark wasn’t there?
Honestly, I don’t really remember.
Had Ram been declared dead already?
They said that he had died. As soon as we got there, the people in the waiting room were talking about that he had died. They didn’t say if he had died at the hospital or at Taco Land.
How was Tina?
Just kind of in shock.
Did you see anyone from the [Ayalas]?
I only saw Manuel. I didn’t know him at the time, so I saw a guy come up. I had never seen him before, I only later saw him in the context of who he was. I was in the waiting room, and I can’t remember who it was — if it was Eddie or Tina — but they were out in the hallway and a guy came up and started talking to him. This guy went into the room where Ram was, and it was somebody I didn’t know. I didn’t think anything of it one or the other, it wasn’t any of my business. Later, when he left, somebody said that that was Ram’s son from this other family, the Ayala family. From there we met back at Taco Land. In talking to Tina there at the hospital, she said they were going to go back to Taco Land, and if I would like to come, to come back with them. So we all just met back at Taco Land. … We were in a daze to be in Taco Land. This was probably 4:30 or 5 in the morning, maybe. I had offered to, once the sun started coming up and it got late enough, go through the band book, and I’d call any of the bands that were booked for the coming weeks and tell them there wasn’t going to be a gig.
So when did the Ram Jam start?
I just felt like I wanted to put something together, a musical memorial. So I put together a four-band thing at the Josephine Theater.
What about the thing the next morning at Taco Land? Wasn’t there some kind of memorial?
Well, yeah, I don’t know who put it all together. I didn’t have anything to do with that, except I went and took pictures.
Did you have anything to do with the event at the Sanctuary?
There were several things. I didn’t do any of those. They were put together and promoted as benefits to help Doug and Sunshine. Like I said, I don’t know specifically who put all this stuff together. I know the Taco Land thing was that weekend. There was something at Sanctuary, and before I started working at Sam’s, there was something put together there as well.
Josephine Theatre was first time you were involved?
That was put together, and it was the # 3 Dinners, the Mescaleros, the Infidels, and the Rhythm Kings. I organized that one. That was not called Ram Jam. I did it as, in my eyes, a gift to Tina. Tina was there. Originally we didn’t have a name for it. We were just saying it was a tribute or a memorial to Ram. I even had the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center set up to come out there in the parking lot with one of their donation buses to do blood donations. We were going to do some T-shirts and we got sponsors to cover the cost of screening T-shirts that we were going to give away to whoever donated blood. At that point is when I knew there was another family, because we started being contacted by the other family saying that they didn’t know anything about this and that they should have been contacted if anything was going to be done for Ram. I assumed Tina had known from way back.
Who contacted you from the other family?
I don’t even remember. I don’t know who that was. I couldn’t tell you. They were saying that “you can’t call it a memorial to Ram Ayala.” I guess it was the use of the name or the use of a memorial thing and having it sound like something official, when the [Ayala] family [wasn’t] involved. All I knew was the show was just something to pay tribute, pay homage to a friend. It was free. Everything was donated. It was about two weeks before that I got the call. I told Tina about it. Tina had her relationship with Ram, her marriage with Ram, her family and everything, and I don’t know anything about the dynamic between the two families — how much or how little they knew each other, I don’t know any of that. It’s hard for me to speculate.
So after Josephine Theatre, that’s when Ram Jam starts?
[After] the Josephine thing, word started circulating that there were family members that were upset with [Ram’s] name being attached. It was two months after his death in 2005. Everything was already booked and set. We had already put out the word to people. There was no cover, no cost. We had the Josephine Theatre donate the use of the theater. The PA was donated. We had a few small business in the music community that each kicked in a few dollars to print the shirts so that we could pay for the shirts and be able to give them away to blood donors. The blood donation thing was kind of done to directly benefit Doug or Sunshine, even if it was in the form of helping his hospital after he passed or the outstanding bills. We wanted to have a vibe that what we were doing with the blood donations would specifically do something good for our friends that were involved. Anyway, I talked to a couple people and asked what a Ram phrase was. We didn’t want to use the Ram Ayala name because there’s potential problems here with these other family people. So we got a few phrases and picked the one that was the typical Ram phrase. So we changed the name of the show to “Don’t Be a Pussy.” And we put that on the shirts, just big. It says “Don’t Be a Pussy,” and it’s got the band names and the Josephine Theatre. And that’s the shirts that when the people donated blood we gave it to them. When Ram would say it, depending on who he said it to, it could mean any number of things: “Don’t fuck up,” or “Don’t be a pussy,” meaning “Don’t be a stranger.” Some of Ram’s things were very specific and some things he had were universal. We figured that was the most universal Ram thing between some people. … That was the first event. Jeff came out to that. I’ve known Jeff from Taco Land back in the day. We didn’t become really good friends until over the last 10 years or so. I mean, we knew each other. He was always in bands; he was always there; he was always promoting shows.
But you didn’t have the blessings of the Ayala family yet, right?
No. At the Josephine thing, from the beginning we knew we weren’t going to call it the Ram Ayala anything. We weren’t going to use the name Ram Ayala. In 2006 it was called the Ram Jam. I talked to Jeff about it, and so many people loved the thing at the Josephine. The only thing they didn’t like as much was that, at Taco Land, you’d go and you’d drink beer, you’d get rowdy, you’d talk the way you wanted to talk, while the Josephine thing had great music, but it was more subdued. People were still up dancing at the stage and the whole bit, but it wasn’t like the Taco Land atmosphere. It was the Taco Land vibe, but not that atmosphere. Eddie actually came out to the Josephine on his motorcycle and parked his bike on the sidewalk and went in for about five minutes. I don’t know if he talked to Tina or what he did, but he went in for a few minutes, then came out and split.
Anyway, I talked to Jeff and I thought that, potentially, an annual thing could be a big undertaking. I said, “I’d like to do it with somebody. I’d like to work with somebody who is like-minded and who has the same feeling in their heart, that the place [Taco Land] is in their soul and who understands the person [Ram].” So I talked to Jeff and I said, “What do you think we can do to celebrate Ram? Do you have any ideas?” We just kind of brainstormed between us and somehow it just kind of developed into … snap. Every year there was an annual thing, as unofficial as it was, it was very organic. Ram loved being there, loved everything about the place, and his friends and his customers, his family, everything. And on those birthday weekends, he was more the king than any other time of year even. So I thought, “Man, that’s the time he really seems to have enjoyed the most, and that’s the time a lot of us enjoyed … And if we do it this coming year, we won’t even miss a birthday weekend. Ram did it himself every year. He’s not here to physically be the center of it, but spiritually, that’s something that, in my opinion, I think Ram would probably love.”
And you named it Ram Jam?
Well, I had asked him one time, jokingly, “Why do all these people come here and these bands vie to play at your birthday?” It was asked jokingly, and without skipping a beat, Ram just looked at me and went, “Hey pussy, every man wants to jam with the Ram.”
Did you ask permission from the Ayala family?
I didn’t talk to the Ayala family beforehand, and I was talking regularly to Tina. I was only getting one side of whatever the thing was.
Why didn’t you feel the need to ask permission?
You know, I don’t know. To me, I just thought that not using his full name [was enough]…
Any problem from either family over the years about the Ram Jam?
No, never had any issues after the first one and getting established and meeting some of the Ayalas there. I wouldn’t say I have any kind of a relationship with [the Ayalas].
Did the Ayalas ever get any money from Ram Jam?
No, none of the families did. The original intent with the Ram Jam was that whenever there was a need within what we kind of considered the Taco Land family … we would use the money as a benefit. … We finalizing stuff, and we ran into an old friend of Dick Hayes’s wife. He was a bass player and a band mate of Jeff’s. He was in the Country Giants, the Ideals, an amazing local musician and just a crazy personality. Of all the musician friends Ram had, he was probably Ram’s best friend. They were the closest. They were kind of like brothers. They’d fight like cats and dogs, but they were just so close all those years. Anyway, Richard passed away a couple years back. You can ask Jeff on the specifics. I think it was about ’99 or 2000. We ran into a friend of Dick Hayes widow, and Jeff hadn’t seen this girl in quite a while. There was something in the stars about this chance meeting. She told Jeff, “Hey, did you hear about Kim? She broke her back and fell off a balcony, broke her back and had some spinal issues.” She was in the hospital, and that led to us deciding that, if we could, we’d use these Ram Jams to do some good for people. I’ve even got Ram and Dick Hayes on video, out on the patio. Ram’s messing with Richard and tells kind of an off-color joke that involves his wife. She used to drive one of those horses Downtown. There was also this Puerto Rican girl there who used to drink and hang out at Taco Land. So Richard’s sitting at the table and Ram turns to her and says, “Hey, you know what his wife does?” She says, “I don’t care what she does, as long as she don’t come looking for me.” He goes, “No, no, no. Check this out, man. His wife, she works Downtown, you know, on the carriage. She drives the carriage, all day long she’s lookin’ at a horse’s ass, and then at night she’s got to go home and look at him.” So then I pan over to Richard, and he’s just like, “Why…” [Clayworth showed the video to the Current]
So that’s how charity part started?
So we decided, “Let’s do this, and everything that we make will go to Kim’s medical or living expenses.”
Every year did a portion of proceedings go to…
Not every year, because there wasn’t always something. When there wasn’t a charity, the money went to the bands, outside of the expenses. One year we donated some money to KSYM.
Can you prove where the money went?
The first year, we gave everything to Kim, and I can’t remember if we both took it to her or if I did or Jeff did. Jeff probably knows how to get in touch with her. I think Jeff had mentioned he got a call from her. The net after the production … see … We paid the production, we paid the sound and lights guy at the club … we had to buy beer tickets for the band from the club … I don’t remember how much that was, Jeff bought the tickets, a couple hundred bucks there. When all the costs were paid, we gave the net, which was about $500, give or take a couple, to Dee Dee Williams.
Anyone who can confirm that, yes, we got the money?
Well, Jeff took it to her. I think he took it to the hospital and gave it directly in her hand. As far as I know she’s doing better, but she still has a lot of paralysis. I haven’t talked to her in a little while, but Jeff took that down to her. Last I heard, they were talking about using that to get her a laptop. I took it to KSYM, I don’t remember what the program director’s name was at the time. That was probably the second one. At the Limelight one, we gave part of the proceeds to San Anto Cultural Arts. This was the year after Manny [Castillo] passed. There was one year, the second or the third year, there was no benefit thing and it just all went to the bands. Now the other years, like with KSYM and San Anto, we gave them a portion of it and gave the bands a portion.
So you and Jeff never kept any money for yourself?
Just when there were expenses. There was one show, I think it was the second or third one at Sam’s, because that was the biggest draw, we each paid ourselves $100. In addition, paid all the bands and the expenses and all that. Other than that, the only thing we ever pulled out was if we had an expense. Like this last time, I picked up cases of bottled water on the way to the venue, stuff like that.
You don’t remember how many tickets you sold?
I think Jeff’s got all that on a spreadsheet.
So what’s Eddie’s beef? Why is he so upset with you?
He’s been incredibly nice and incredibly respectful towards me, but when all this came up, he sent me an e-mail saying he wanted to be involved in it. He said to call him that he needs to talk about the Ram Jam this, and this, and this. He sent me an e-mail first, so then I called him. When I called him, he said, “Well, I don’t know if you heard, but Taco Land’s sold.” I said that I hadn’t heard that. He says, “It’s sold and the people that bought it, they want to take over the Ram Jam.” I said, “Well, I don’t know anything about who bought it or anything else, all I know is that the Ram Jam is something we’ve put a lot of heart and soul and shoe leather into. I don’t think that’s going to happen.” He says, “Here’s the thing. I don’t want that to happen either. What I want to do is that I want to be involved and I want to head up the Ram Jam,” and that’s the way he worded it. He wanted to “head up the Ram Jam.”
Are you sure about this?
Absolutely. I called Jeff right after this happened and said, “Man, I just talked to Eddie. Here’s the conversation.” So we conversed ourselves. Eddie has never been to the Ram Jam in the six years of the Ram Jam. … Neither Jeff nor I, that we know of, had never seen him ourselves at Taco Land. It could have been one of those deals that when everyone was younger maybe he was there. We just didn’t know him, but knowing him as Ram’s son, I don’t have any recollection of Ram going, “Hey, that’s my son Eddie.” … He was at the Josephine thing for just a few minutes. As I said, he showed up on his motorcycle, then split after a few minutes.
Why wouldn’t you welcome Eddie or any of the Ayalas at this point?
One thing that Eddie told me during that initial conversation was that the way we’re doing it is all wrong. He said we’re doing all these big bands and all these bands that are very popular, and Ram wouldn’t like that. He said Ram would give any band a shot. The Ram Jam, he said, should be about getting unknown bands and having people come out and see unknown bands. That’s what he says that he thinks Ram would approve of. He was very adamant about that fact. Well, that right there just goes to show that he doesn’t have an understanding for the music.
Is there any room for a dialogue?
We don’t wish anything bad on anybody by any stretch of the imagination. At the same time, by doing this the way we do it, there’s a bottom line. There’s a whole lot of things that are important to it. The packaging, the presentation, and all that. The main thing is being able to pay tribute to what our vision and our vibe of Taco Land was. There’s certain bands that are base bands that, to Jeff and I, are defining bands in the Taco Land that we were a part of. Sons of Hercules, Big Drag, the Hickoids, and the [#3] Dinners. Those, to us, are defining bands. Within Taco Land there were various little scenes. We’re not opposed necessarily to other bands that weren’t the bands we went to see all the time or bands we didn’t book, or whatever. We’re not opposed to those being on the bill, we’ve got room. We’re not saying, “These are the eight bands that are going to be on the Ram Jam bill every year, that’s it.” At the same time, you’ll have bands that, after the fact, they’ll complain. But you never hear them leading up to it: “Hey, we’d like to play.” You know? That’s all it will take. Just show the slightest bit of interest. There’s plenty of bands that haven’t played it, but [they didn’t] come and asked or made their interest known. At the same time, one of the things is, we’ve got only so much room on the bill.
Anyway … All of a sudden [Eddie’s] got this huge interest because he asked about the money, then he asked about getting involved.
He claims his interest was always there, but he couldn’t do anything about it because he was in litigation with the Ayalas.
That doesn’t keep him from going out to a nightclub. His brother made it out, his mother made it out. Some kids on [the Ayala] side have made it out at various times. It’s not going to keep him from going out to a nightclub where a bunch of people that knew his dad or knew his dad’s place are there to show their love. That’s a big consideration of ours. Jeff and I discussed that. He had no interest whatsoever, not even enough to show up, in six years of doing this?
That’s a good argument, but ultimately irrelevant, isn’t it? The bottom line is: the family doesn’t want you to keep doing the Ram Jam? Why not step aside?
Nobody has made myself or Jeff aware that there was anybody not wanting the Ram Jam done, even to the extent that Mark Cruz and his family has come [to Ram Jams] several times.
But Tina says she went there to tell you not to do it.
That’s not true. She never told me that. And if the name is marketable and there’s potential money, they’ve been told they’re more than welcome to use it, it’s not registered. Feel free to use it. I don’t own the name. They can do whatever they wish. You saw the email, they can take the name anytime they want. We’ll continue our tributes in our own way. If they want the Ram Jam name, they can use it. The name doesn’t matter. The important thing is to pay tribute to somebody who was important to our musical lives.
When was the first Ram Jam?
Are you asking me for an exact date? 2005.
Was that the one at Taco Land?
No, it was at the Sanctuary, which is the bar. We’re getting into a confusing timeline.
Ram was killed in June and next day there was a get together at Taco Land.
I don’t recall that being referred to as the Ram Jam.
But you did organize the one at the Sanctuary?
There again, I don’t believe that was actually referred to as the Ram Jam. That was just a benefit show for Denise and Doug. Primarily Denise. I wasn’t really responsible for organizing any of that. (He writes down the different editions of what he calls “the official” Ram Jam events, starting with the Limelight in 2006.) The second one was at Sam’s, third one was at Sam’s, fourth one was at Limelight, fifth one was at Nightrocker, and this year was at Backstage. So Jerry had a tribute show at the Josephine Theatre in, maybe, August of 2005.
So these first three are all 2005? Taco Land, Sanctuary, and Josephine Theatre?
Right, and none of those were promoted as Ram Jams. So, really, you know, the Ram Jam was Ram’s birthday party, which started at the Limelight. And that was the first event that was promoted as Ram Jam.
You and Jerry both involved?
Jerry and I co-promoted the event.
Is the name registered at all?
No, it’s not. At least not by Jerry or I.
In the e-mail you sent Eddie, you told him you don’t want any trouble but will continue organizing the Ram Jam.
That we will continue to pay tribute in our own way, whether it’s called Ram Jam or not.
Because it’s not about the name, is it?
It’s not a commercial event, per se. If we can find a worthy cause to contribute the money to, we’ll do so.
But you did, haven’t you? Is it always a benefit for something, or partly a benefit?
Sometimes the bands get half the money and we give [half] the money to something else. Sometimes it’s a total benefit.
But the last one was a benefit of some kind, right?
Yes, and that was for DeeDee Williams.
Can you show proof you gave the money to people you said you would?
I can produce what I handed out this past year.
What about years prior?
There it gets kind of convoluted. Years prior we had a benefit for Kim Hayes, who was the widow of Dick Hayes. Anyway, I can’t produce any receipts for you. We just handed out the money and that was basically it.
Can you produce the people that received the money?
Sure. For example, one year we were going do the show as a benefit for KSYM. They were supposed to exchange some spots, not a lot of spots, just run two spots a day for two weeks leading up to the show. They ran one spot the Thursday before the show, so instead of giving them the $2,000 they would have gotten, we gave them $500. Just ’cause we said we’ll give them something, but they didn’t really hold up their end. We just ended up distributing the money amongst the bands.
What kind of relationship did Jerry [Clayworth] and Ram have?
Jerry put on some shows in there.
He was a promoter for Taco Land?
Yeah, basically, a promoter. However much you can do in Taco Land. Obviously, the space was very limited.
But were they friends as well?
Yeah. Some people I’ve heard claim that Jerry didn’t know Ram, but that’s not true. It is categorically untrue. I mean, he has mountains of videotape he’s shot at the bar over the years from the mid ’90’s up until the end.
After the story was published, Jerry Clayworth wrote in to request that the following be added as an open letter to the Current and our readers.
Open E-Mail to The Current regarding the Annual Ram Jam Festival:
Jeff Smith and I (Jerry Clayworth) put together the Ram Jam six years ago, out of our mutual appreciation and heartfelt love of the man who boiled down the grassroots music world to it's purest, gut-level form, and did that without any fancy choreography or roadmaps. We figured that the most appropriate way to honor Ramiro "Ram" Ayala after his untimely passing, was to keep the tradition of his birthday weekend parties alive. The fact that Current Editor Greg Harman said "And yet when it comes to continuing to foster the spirit of all things Ram, it's hard to imagine better stewards than Jeff Smith and Jerry Clayworth", is one more sign that what we're doing is hitting home with those who care.
As far as the "Who controls Ram's legacy?" asked on the cover of The Current this week, it has absolutely nothing to do with us wanting to "control" our friend's legacy. That is not our duty or our right. A question that Eddie Cruz posed was "Do you think you guys knew my father better than I did?" We're not saying that we knew Ram any better than Eddie at all. What we are saying is that we knew him in a completely different light than he did. We didn't sit at the dinner table with him, or visit him at home ... We knew Ram from Taco Land. We knew "Puro Piche Party" Ram. That's the man we are celebrating through the Annual Ram Jam.
I heard the news of the shootings when KMOL broke in on Spurs post-game coverage with a special report. Once I realized that the shooting on Grayson they were reporting was at Taco Land, I sped down to the club. As I rounded the corner, the entire area was swarming with police cars and media trucks. The front door was open, and I fully expected to see Ram with some guy in a chokehold. I overheard the SAPD spokesperson telling the media that one employee and two patrons had been shot. My mind started racing, when just then, I saw a media member that I knew. He told me that it was actually Ram, Doug, and Sunshine who were shot, and they were transported to BAMC (Only Ram was taken to BAMC). Another Taco Land regular showed up just as I was leaving for the hospital, so after informing her about what I'd heard, she asked to ride with me. Once again, I expected to find Ram sitting up arguing with the doctors about leaving to "find those pussies who shot me". It was not to be. Ram was gone.
I met Ram's sons Mark and Eddie Cruz for the first time that night, and Tina Cruz, who I knew of and had seen from time-to-time at Taco Land, asked me if I wanted to go back to the bar with the family. When we arrived at the club, the sun was just starting to rise. I asked if they would like me to call the bands that were scheduled to play over the coming days, and let them know what had taken place. I called every band that I had numbers for, and then with the light of day, there was a crush of media and mourners. It was all so surreal.
Following that weekend, Tina and I started speaking more, and became friends. Ram had represented that Tina (or "Buck", short for "Bucket") was his wife, and I had no reason to believe otherwise. I knew that she needed/wanted support, or maybe a "sounding board". I was happy to listen, as this was the "wife" of someone I cared about for many years. Soon though, her conversation regularly included verbally running Ram down, and her talking about all of his so-called inadequecies. She would say that everything Ram was at Taco Land was because of her, and she supposedly coined all of his catchphrases, etc.
During the time I was putting together a memorial show as a gift for Tina and her sons at The Josephine Theatre, members of the Ayala family contacted the theatre director and threatened a lawsuit if Ram's name was used at all. I had started hearing bits and pieces about another family over the days leading up to the August 2005 event. We still held the show, but simply titled it "Don't Be A Pussy". I must admit, I took this opposition personally, and was very upset.... Afterall, how could they treat Ram's "wife" that way?
I eventually met members of the Ayala family, and was pleasantly surprised at how respectful and genuine they were. My first assumptions about them were way off the mark. Over a few more chance meetings with the Ayala sons and daughters, as well as family matriarch Agnes, I realized that they were truly good people.
I told Tina that I had met and spoken with some of the Ayalas, and she immediately started in saying things like "Don't be fooled by those evil people", and "Why are you going over to their side, you're a traitor", etc. I told her that I wasn't siding with anyone, but that there needed to be some mutual respect paid, they were victims, just as she was. I did stop hanging out with Tina Cruz for the most part, but not because I "sided" with anyone else.... It was because I was tired of hearing the insults and dirty laundry.
We can't control what people want to say in public forums like The Current, but I think there's a consensus among those who were regulars at Taco Land, that Ram kept his personal life separate from his public persona, and would probably be quite upset to have it now being smeared across newspapers and the internet, especially by people who say they love him. Salacious stories make for great reality shows and tabloid media, but some of what is included in these interviews has crossed the line.
The nature of the Taco Land scene makes the subject so personal in so many different ways to folks. There are going to be people who love what we're doing, and those who hate it (Or as Ram might say "Pussies from both sides of the tracks"),The Ram Jam is a work in progress, and though it's not perfect (probably never will be), we're fine-tuning it more every year, and doing what we can to make each year's event the best it can be.
Some people automatically resent that money is involved in the Ram Jam. The simple fact is that economics are absolutely necessary for these (or most any other produced events) to happen. There is a great deal of overhead in booking, promoting, and staging a multi-band musical event. That's just a fact. When we're lucky enough to have some part of the production donated, it helps cut back on the overhead, and potentially leaves more money available for the bands or whatever cause we might be donating to on any given year. However, we generally have to pay the majority of our production and promotional costs. And with that being said, having established bands who will draw fans to the show is one of the keys to economic success. Unknown bands have to get their start somewhere, but if you can't afford the overhead expenses, there is NO show... and therefore, nobody plays.
As an example: This year's event brought in a gross (total) of $1625 (not a net). And out of that there were no hotel expenses paid out (as detailed in the article). The money which went to bands/musicians was a fuel allowance for all of those who drove in from out of town. We paid the club soundman, and outside stage sound/light man, backline rental, an experienced and trustworthy doorman, and $200+ in beer tickets for the bands (by TABC law, we couldn't bring in outside alcohol). The $50 "out of pocket" was to cover the cost of wristbands, bottled water for the bands, etc. The "net" remainder was $480, which was donated to Diana "Dee Dee" Williams.
Four out of the first six Ram Jams have benefitted in part (the first show's funds were donated in their entirety) various individuals and/or organizations in need, which had some strong connection to Taco Land. Funds have been donated to Kim Crawford (The widow of Hickoid/Country Giant Dick Hays), KSYM, San Anto Cultural Arts, And Dee Dee Williams. Jeff and I were able to pay ourselves $100 apiece one time, at a show that was not a benefit event (and after every single band was paid, and all overhead was covered). Other than that show, we have never paid ourselves a cent for the hundreds of hours invested, countless incidental payments out of our pockets, and who knows how much was spent on gas to promote these events.... And the bottom line is that production expenses are a hard cost, meaning that even if no one came to the show, Jeff and I would still be on the hook to pay them.
Eddie Cruz contacted me via email following the sale of Taco Land, and said that he needed to discuss the "future of the Ram Jam." I called him back, and he asked how much money the show typically brings in. He told me that the bar had been sold, and that the new owners wanted to take over the annual festival. He said that he didn't want that to happen, and that he wanted to protect his dad's legacy. Cruz said that starting next year, he was going to "head up" the Ram Jam, and would like our help. He said that he wanted to meet with Jeff and I to get filled in on the show's history, then he was going to take the helm. Via an E-Mail that Jeff Smith sent to Eddie, we explained that since we didn't recall ever seeing him at the bar throughout all the years we spent there, and that he had shown no interest whatsoever in the six years we've been honoring Ram's memory (Eddie never attended a single Ram Jam), that we weren't interested in any sort of partnership. And, to be honest, with the Cruz and Ayala families just wrapping up a 5-year legal battle with one another, we didn't relish the thought of potentially being in any familial crossfire.
If Eddie Cruz wants to take the Ram Jam name that we've established, and attempt to create an event based on our six years of hard work, dedication, and love for the memory of Ram Ayala (as we knew him), then by all means, do what your conscience leads you to do. The fact is that we are still going to pay our tribute in our own way, to the Ram we knew. We don't need the name to celebrate a fallen friend. And believe me, the annual music festival is just the public way for us to do so.... Privately, I literally think about Ram every single time I drink a can of Lone Star, or see a garage band that knocks me out.
We would encourage any combination of Ram's family members who want to publicly pay tribute to him, to do what's in their hearts. And by continuing to honor Ram as we've done for the last six years (and the previous two decades while he was with us), we mean absolutely no disrespect. In fact, we're doing it with the very highest degree of respect, for a man who has a permanent place in our musical lives and our hearts.