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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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When people started spontaneously flocking to Taco Land following the 2005 murders of Ram Ayala and doorman Doug Morgan, the Cruz family started to think about organizing concerts to honor Ram’s memory. After those early memorials at Taco Land, there was a benefit for Morgan’s family and to offset Koger’s medical expenses at the now-defunct Sanctuary on July 3, 2005, with Smith’s Hickoids as one of the performing bands. But the first family-approved Ram tribute concert occurred at the Josephine Theater in August of 2005. “We were the ones that allowed that to happen,” Eddie Cruz said. “It was me, my mother, my brother [Mark], and we had Jerry Clayworth get involved.”

However, the first tribute concert billed as the Ram Jam was held at the Limelight in April of 2006. After that, the event was celebrated at Sam’s Burger Joint (2007-08), again at the Limelight (2009), Nightrocker (2010), and Backstage Live (2011). Each was organized by Smith and Clayworth.

Now Cruz said he wants the Ram Jam get closer to “Ram’s real spirit” and include scholarship money for young people. “I’m finally ready to claim what’s mine,” he said, “but people don’t know all I had to go through to get here. That’s why I’m talking.”

He describes a free event mixing established bands with the up-and-coming. But Clayworth says Cruz pitched him a different vision. “He basically said, ‘I want to head the Ram Jam,’ and said the event should be about getting unknown bands and having people come out and see unknown bands,” said Clayworth. “That right there just goes to show you that he doesn’t have an understanding for the music or the business.”

Tina Cruz says she’s attended the Ram Jam every year — “but the only reason I went was to tell Jerry and Jeff not to do it. Every year I told them, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it.’ And they went ahead and did it.”

Both Clayworth and Smith deny Tina ever told them not to do the Ram Jam.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Smith said. “She was dancing in front of the band this year.” He sent the Current two pictures of Tina at the 2011 Ram Jam to back up his claim.

Sylvia Navarro says she specifically gave Clayworth permission to host the event. “The only conversation I had with [Clayworth] was during the trials,” she said. “He said, ‘Do you mind if I still conduct the Ram Jams in your father’s honor?’” and I said, ‘For right now, that’s fine.’”

But Cruz also challenges how the money is handled. While Ram’s annual birthday parties were free to attend, the Ram Jam charges admission. And while Eddie praises the fact that Clayworth and Smith often donate part of the proceeds to local charities and vows that his own version of the Ram Jam “would be all about scholarships, about giving young kids a chance,” he’s critical of Clayworth’s and Smith’s bookkeeping.

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