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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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“Where does this money go?” asks Eddie Cruz. “Where are the receipts? Do you have it on a big billboard, a big check saying, ‘Donated to KSYM or whatever? And a picture? Something that shows this is why it’s happening? No, [Clayworth] doesn’t have that!”

The Current was able to confirm that $480 from 2011’s Jam was donated to Belle Solloa, who has power-of-attorney over Taco Land regular Dee Dee Williams, the singer of Lost in Space, now recovering from spinal surgery. The rest of the net $1,625 went to the bands, light and sound techs, a doorman, hotel expenses, and $50 out-of-pocket expenses for Clayworth, according to a detailed accounting report sent to the Current via email by Smith.

“I [once] took [the donation] to KSYM, I don’t remember what the program director’s name was at the time,” Clayworth said. “That was probably the second [Ram Jam in 2007]. At the Limelight, we gave part of the proceeds to San Anto Cultural Arts, the year after Manny [Castillo] passed. There was one year, the second or the third year, that there was no benefit and it just all went to the bands.”

“I can’t produce any receipts for you,” Smith said. “We just handed out the money, and that was basically it.”

Despite their relaxed attitude towards record keeping, Smith and Clayworth have never been accused of not delivering to the organizations or individuals listed as Ram Jam beneficiaries. And, really, it’s not about that anyway. Eddie Cruz’s real beef is with Clayworth for, first, going around the Cruz family and getting close to the Ayalas as soon as he found out Agnes was the legal wife, and, second, for refusing his offer of help.

The Cruzes want one Jam. One that is controlled by the family. “Ram Jam should be handled by the families, not Jerry Clayworth,” said Tina Cruz. But Clayworth insists that friends and fans of Ram and Taco Land should always be free to organize and celebrate Ram Ayala and Taco Land the way they see fit. “They can take the name anytime they want. We’ll continue our tributes in our own way. The name doesn’t matter,” he said. “The important thing is to pay tribute to somebody who was important to our musical lives.”

Sylvia Navarro spoke once to the Current, and says she won’t speak on the topic again.

“My father was not perfect, but he was a great father and provider and I am proud of what he brought to the music industry in San Antonio,” she wrote the Current in a recent email. “I hope that is what he will be remembered for and not the mistakes he may have made in life.”

Wading into the many recollections of Ram Ayala has been a bit like reliving a San Antonio version of Rashomon, the Akira Kurosawa movie in which three characters each reveal a different recollection of the same event. I’ve found at least four Rams: Agnes’ Baptist, slacks-wearing version, Tina’s rock ’n’ roll Ram, a father loved by seven kids, and the sneering, hard-drinking figurehead adored by the bands and the fans.

If and when Eddie Cruz and Sylvia Navarro, now bridging a difficult divide between two families, launch their Jam, we’ll report it. If Clayworth and Smith continue, we’ll be there, too. Even though the forecast appears to call for more months of simmering hostility as two camps resolve to remember Ram as they best see fit when April 2012 arrives, for most of us it’s still about the music and the man that made it possible.

Above and beyond the dispute lies the ethereal presence of a man who refuses to disappear. •

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