Ram Ayala’s son and his quest to take over what — he says — belongs to the family
Published: July 6, 2011
So, for Clayworth and Smith, the last six years of the Ram Jam have been just that: a time for bands to jam in honor of the memory of a pillar of the local music scene, the man who bravely booked punk bands other venues often feared and let them shine on their own terms. Taco Land became a symbol of musical experimentation, and its fame spread outside of the confines of San Antonio. Long before Ram’s death, the venue had been the subject of NPR coverage and a documentary directed by Laura Escamilla, not to mention a popular tribute by the Dead Milkmen.
The fight over the Jam started “out of the blue,” as Clayworth puts it, with a phone call from Cruz and a request to have Smith ring him back. Instead of a call, Smith wrote Cruz an email. In the note dated April 18, Smith told Cruz that while he wants peace with the family, he’s not going to stop organizing the Ram Jam. And he encouraged Cruz to start his own thing. “The name Ram Jam is not registered by either of us anywhere, except perhaps as a Facebook or MySpace page as a vehicle to promote the event,” Smith wrote Cruz. “If you want to use it, go ahead. We will continue to pay tribute to your father and the venue in our own way as we have done over the past six years and we’re not going to ask for anyone’s permission or blessing to do so, or operate under stipulations from people that have shown absolutely no desire to be involved until now. Again, we celebrate the man we knew and intend no disrespect to you or your family.”
By law, there may be no reason Clayworth and Smith shouldn’t continue, and there is nothing stopping the Cruz family from starting their own tribute. Yet Eddie was livid. He felt insulted and took the email for what it was: a way of saying “thanks, but no thanks.”
“At this point, I started feeling that [Clayworth] was feeling threatened about the whole thing,” Cruz said. “I offered my help and he turned around and told [Smith] the story about me wanting to take over, and that’s why [Smith] sent me that email.”
But Smith’s points are valid. If the Jam was so important to Cruz, why did he wait six years after the murders and six editions of the Clayworth/Smith-organized Ram Jam to enter the picture?
“For that,” Cruz said, “we have to go back to the day of the murders.”
The night of June 23, 2005, Cruz was supposed to be at Taco Land with his father, who at the last minute decided to open the bar at around 10:30 p.m., shortly after the Spurs had won their third NBA championship. Cruz said he was the de facto bouncer at the club and always helped his dad with various jobs around the bar. But that night he stayed home “doing nothing.” He didn’t even watch the game. Unbeknownst to Cruz, two robbers shot Ram, doorman Doug Morgan, and bartender Denise Koger shortly before midnight. Ram died in the early morning of June 24, Morgan would pass away on July 13, 2005, and Koger survived after spending 10 days in the hospital.
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