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Ram Ayala’s son and his quest to take over what — he says — belongs to the family

Photo: Photo illustration by Chuck Kerr, License: N/A

Photo illustration by Chuck Kerr

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There’s a place in San Antone
Where I can go and not feel alone
Tacoland, it’s a panacea
Tacoland, they’re always glad to see ya

— “Tacoland,” The Dead Milkmen


“I’m taking over the Ram Jam thing, there’s no doubt about that,” said Eddie Cruz, the son of murdered nightclub owner Ram Ayala.

I had contacted Cruz to ask whether he knew anything about the rumors about a future re-opening of Taco Land, the joint his father had owned and managed for almost 30 years before he was fatally shot at the club in June of 2005. He didn’t know much, but he had plenty to say about the music jam that has been hosted for six years as a memorial tribute to the now-iconic figure.

“When my father died, everybody came out of the woodwork,” Cruz said. “‘Oh, I knew him! I partied here with him! I partied there with him!’ I mean, my father knew a lot of people, but everybody all of a sudden knew him really, really well. And some of these people started doing stuff on their own and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

“Some of these people” is actually only two: Jeff Smith (singer for the Hickoids, arguably the first punk band ever to perform at Taco Land) and booking agent/graphic designer Jerry Clayworth, co-organizers of the last six editions of the Ram Jam and, if you ask them, the only Ram Jam.

Two days earlier, I had put the question of Taco Land’s future to Jeff Smith. What did he know about rumors swirling around Taco Land? The venue has been a pivotal San Antonio landmark that served as a South Texas hub for local and touring punk bands at a time venues for such acts were hard to come by. Though the dilapidated structure in the shadow of the rapidly developing Pearl complex along the expanded River Walk was purchased earlier this year by an outfit called Taco Land Studios, LLC (co-owned by Desperate Housewives’ actor Ricardo Chavira) few details have leaked. A few weeks ago Chavira’s publicist denied rumors circulated on Facebook that the place was going to be converted into an ice house in the months ahead, but what plans exist — if any — have been closely guarded.

Did Smith know anything about it? Not much, it turned out. But later, after Cruz’s claims about the Ram Jam started to roil, Smith told the Current, “I don’t really care to get into a public pissing match [with Eddie Cruz] about this.”

With the property sold by the family, Cruz’s attention has shifted to the annual memorial concert. Though the family says the title “Ram Jam” dates back to Ram Ayala’s annual birthday parties, Clayworth was inspired by a statement from Ayala himself. “I once asked Ram, ‘Why do all these people and bands come here and vie to play at your [April 10] birthday every year?’” Clayworth said. “Without skipping a beat, Ram just looked at me and said, ‘Hey, pussy, every man wants to jam with the Ram.”

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