Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tacoland Expansion Put on Hold By HDRC

Yeah, it appears that self proclaimed "most important man in the universe" and 2012 Texas Monthly Bum Steer Award Winner Chris Erck is still working hard at chipping away at the true soul of San Antonio. 

Read all about it in the latest issue of The Current.

He's the same guy that sabotaged the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and The Landing, a San Antonio gem on the riverwalk for 48 years replacing it with his another one of his own rudderless concepts - a tequila bar...

Now he's on deck as the new mastermind behind what's left of Taco Land and the sacred tree. 


I give it a year, maybe 18 months before it tanks and somebody that understands the true meaning of Keep San Antonio Lame or perhaps someone that actually went to Taco Land and knew Ram gets involved.

We all know that Taco Land and Ram Ayala are truly and sadly gone forever, but honestly, San Antonio's landmarks deserve a way better steward than this guy.

Thankfully he doesn't own the property so at least that amazing tree is safe.

To quote Ram - "Stop It, you're killing me... Again!"

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Last Footage of Ram Ayala

This is possibly the last footage of Ram taken by Tina Berkley the night before he was shot, June 23, 2005.

Sorry about the low resolution, a higher res version is now available on The Swindles: Last Band At Taco Land CD/DVD. Get yours at the Release Party at The Cove on Thursday, March 6th, 2008.

Now Available: Last Band At Taco Land CD/DVD.

Go!: The Cove.

Play Ram video.

Peace y'all.


thanks for sending in the video Tina - can you please send me your email again.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Taco Land Killer Update

Excerpt from an online article:

The appeals court upheld the conviction and death sentence of Joseph Gamboa, of Bexar County.

Gamboa, 26, was condemned for a June 2005 robbery at a San Antonio bar called Taco Land where owner Ramiro Ayala and employee Douglas Morgan were fatally shot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rest In Peace Doug Manion

Doug at Dr. Bart's office striking a pose.

Sad News Via Dr. Bart Nichols

Doug Manion died last Thursday or Friday. I am told his death was a suicide. He was a devout Tacoland regular, never paying a cover but earning admission by helping load in band equipment or picking up empties for Ram (to my observation, there was a mutual respect between the two). Numerous times he would greet me at the garage door facing Elmira St. and ask if he could help because he didn’t have cash for the cover, I would of course say yes and he would keep schlepping until the entire band had loaded in.

Often armed with a disposable flash camera, he must have accumulated a wonderful snap shot history of Tacoland and other San Antonio music venues. If that pile of photos could be located and catalogued, it would be a fitting legacy for Doug. His father was some sort of good ol’ boy City and County politico. I remember when I was a kid, there were always “Re-Elect Judge Manion” signs around town. Always.

His childhood and teenage years observing the actions of his dad and his dad’s friends left him with an insider’s history of San Antonio from the fifties through the seventies, mainly the tenure of the Good Government League. He admitted to a several year involvement with methamphetamine that, among other things, wrecked his teeth. That fascination with speed gave way to Lone Star tallboys and Advil. Doug had resolved a years long dispute with his brother over access to a trust fund set up by their parents for Doug. He lived in Baja King William in a house on Wickes provided to him through that trust. I really think his life had become a little less difficult, at least with regard to food and shelter.

I last talked to him at Sam’s Burger Joint, maybe the night of the Ram Jam or perhaps when the Dinners opened for Davie Allen. He was in his usual upbeat demeanor, looked healthy and was complaining about his new dentures. In other words, same old shit.

Some may have considered him a bum or a drunk, but my opinion is that he was a good guy. I always enjoyed visiting with him; I would often pick up a new tidbit of information about music or from the San Antonio of my youth. I’m going to miss his gravely-voiced, quick speaking, hands in motion way of communicating. Again, he was a good guy.

It’s raining.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Totally F@#*ed Up!

Kethan Beschorner, 29, a suspect in the July 4th murder of Michelle LeGue, was arrested today and charged with murder.

He told police that he chose LaGue because people might connect her death to another man she was going to testify against in the 2005 Taco Land slayings.

Beschorner is being held in the Bexar County Jail on $100,000 bond.

He also told police that he recently became a believer in Jesus Christ after worshiping Satan.


If this Express News link works, there's more over there...

Express News...

That is just totally wrong and freaking weird...

Rest in Peace Michelle and say hi to Ram from all his family and friends in San Antonio - I know there's a Taco Land in Heaven!

Friday, July 18, 2008

First Impressions

True Story From Taco Land

By Robert Cordova

It was about 1985. I was headed out for the night to go see a friends
band play play at Taco Land. The deal was, they were gonna play about
10-ish, then we were suppose go to their studio across the street so I
could audition to be their new drummer. I had never been to Taco Land,
heard of it, or anything! So I show up, and the first band is playing
hard, loud and directly into my right ear as I walked through the
door. Perfect! The place was crowded and totally buzzing with a great
vibe. I remember noticing the low ceiling full of posters and bands
bumper stickers plastered everywhere.

I was impressed.

Then to see the band tucked away in the corner, with no stage,
riser....nothin! Just a couple of colored lights all wired together,
Al Bundy style, hanging to the front of the band. That was the first
time I ever saw a band rocking their balls off, two feet in front of
the crowd, who was rockin with them just as hard!

I was more impressed!

So I make my way back to the bar, to get a beer. And thats where I saw
the Heart of Taco Land. Ram was back there serving beers as fast as he
could take the money. He was taking orders, making change, and
heckling the the band with "hey, play one that sounds good!" or "When
are you gonna start playing you pussies!!" I couldn't believe what
this guy was doing! I just laughed, and tried to squeeze up to the
bar, without getting poked in the back with a pool stick.

Now I was feeling really impressed!!

I finally get to the bar....a mosaic of little colored tiles, and a
candy-apple red diamond tuck base.....with matching bar stools!! This
place was old school! So I'm leaning against the bar waiting to get a
beer, and this drunk lady next to me on her bard stool lifts her head
up a bit, and looks at me. She was dressed like she just came from a
wedding, except her dress was a little shabby. Lets just say it was
missing a few sequins. Like I said, I was smiling....kind of big, when
right then Ram asked "What ya need". I asked for a Coors Light (I
know, I know). As he stepped away to grab it, I hear a growl right
next to me. I look over and the drunk lady was not liking my smile.
She was showing her teeth like a bull dog ready to fight! Holy Shit!

I was starting to wonder if i was impressed anymore.

What did I do to her? Ram slams a Budwieser in front of me and says
$2.00! I said, "I asked for a Coors Light". Ram said, "I know....
$2.00. Right then, the drunk dog-lady snarled and lurched at me with a
loud pissed off dog sound, and tried to bite my arm! She missed, and
fell right to the floor. Sweet Jesus! I helped her up, sat her on her
stool, and listened to Ram yell at her to stop biting his customers!
He took my money, apologized for her, and I took my beer. She sat
there, hunched over, and ordered another beer, insisting she was not
drunk. now this was just out of this world impressive!

I hung out a while longer, listened to my friends band play, then hung
out some more. About half way though their set, Ram came around with a
big oversized Sprite bottle, and was passing it around. He kindly
offered it to me, with one word....Tequila? Hell yah....I took a
drink, and felt right at home. Needless to say, there was no audition
that night. We all got a little too plastered and had a hell of a lot
of fun.

After that, Ram always remembered me, and I spent alot of time at Taco
Land. He always greeted me with a hug if it wasn't too busy. Some of
the nights that were most fun , were when no bands were playing, and
the bar was almost empty. Talking to Ram was a real trip. He was just
grateful for being alive and well enough to party with friends. I
remember drinking Lone Stars for $1.00, and Ram explaining. "Those
pussies on the Riverwalk dont know how to sell beer! $3.00 a beer?
Hell no....the secret is to sell twice as much for half the
price!!....Fuck those Pussies!!

Thats all completely true, and I will remember those times forever.

God Bless Ram.

Robert Cordova

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ram's Killer Takes Plea

Just before his capital murder trial would have started, Jose Najera pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in exchange for a 50-year sentence.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Witness To Taco Land Slayings Found Dead

Police are investigating the suspicious death of a potential witness in a 2005 murder case.

The body of a 44-year-old woman was found inside an apartment on the 1000 block of West Russell Place near downtown.

Published reports said the woman was a witness to the deaths of Ram Ayala and Doug Morgan at the Taco Land nightclub in 2005.

Police said a neighbor saw the woman and another person go into her apartment on July 4. The witness told police she saw the second person leave the apartment 10 minutes later but never saw the woman again.

Joseph Gamboa was convicted and sentenced to death for his connection to the Ayala and Morgan's deaths. The trial of Jose Najera, also charged in connection with the two deaths, is expected to begin on July 21.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Native American Trade Routes

True Stories From Taco Land

By Yawn Blog

Place: Tacoland
When: Late '90s
Who's Playing: Unknown
Ram Factor: Pow-Wow!

Native American Trade Routes With its 500 year old tree that predated the Spanish establishment, Tacoland was on a Native American trade route. I’m fucking serious.

(I'm working on finding more info on this! HMK)

I can’t remember the fellow’s name, so I’ll just call him “John.” He was a really good guy - when he got to drinking we’d see his evil twin, who was a really good guy too, but a little more self-destructive than John. But that was Tacoland - if you weren’t self destructive you wouldn’t go there. It was a celebration of self destructive lifestyles leading to self destruction, to twist a phrase from a daytime TV judge.

John participated in various pow-wows and other Native American arts, and sometimes on a Friday he’d hit Tacoland for a few lukewarm frosty ones. Sometimes he brought his own Steele Reserve. On a couple of occasions, he had spent all his money and really wanted some refreshment. He’d crack open his hatchback out in front of the patio and offer to sell dance bussels, headdresses, moccasins, ankle bells, eagle feathers, and just about anything he had to get some bucks for some beer. I always liked John - he was a good guy, and when I had a couple of extra bucks (which was rare) I’d buy him a beer when I could.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What Kind of Tequila Is It?

True Stories From Taco Land

By Rain

Place: Tacoland
When: One Night
Who's Playing: Nobody
Ram Factor: Kiss The Baby

I went in for a beer on a night that would have other clubs going strong. there was doug, ram, two or three old guys at the bar, and me. One of the guys at the bar would not shut the fuck up, he had every angle covered with a pitch. Ram, getting a bit itchy, passed the baby around. It was one of the few times I remember a real glass bottle (in a brown paper bag).

The car salesman fucker got his turn, and asked, "What kind of tequila is it?" Before he could say anything else, Ram said, "Get the fuck out, you want to drink with me or not motherfucker?" The salesman tried to say he was sorry and laugh it off like a car selling fucker would, but Ram moved (quickly) to the other end of the bar and jerked the tequila out of his hand and said, "You think getting kicked out of a bar is funny?"

He was walking out the door when Ram came my way while calling him a "Pussy" and handed me the tequila and in a much softer tone said, "Don't be a Pussy, kiss the baby". I knew i found a home with ram, and now, i'll do my best to never be a pussy again.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Trouble With Chicken

True Stories From Tacoland

The Trouble With Chicken
by Leighton Mann

Place: Tacoland
When: July 4th, 1997
Who's Playing: Chapstik + Boxcar Satan
Ram Factor: Pretty Fuckin' Funny

It was Chapstik's homecoming show, for the home base venue: TaCoLaNd. This club is a Texas punk landmark (see the Dead Milkmen song "Tacoland" for more details). We had to make it a good show, especially on the 4th of July!

At the obligatory BBQ on the 3rd, we were throwing out ideas on how to make the performance worthy of Ram's (Tacoland proprietor) expectations. He'd fucking kill us if we didn't make the place the required freakshow...

Before reading on, keep in mind that San Antonio's scene is an odd mixture of Texan absurdity and Mexican traditions...

Good ideas weren't coming. After rehashing the outfits, the smoke-machine debacle and the multimedia presentation problems (gross slide shows), someone (unnamed) blurted out, "A cockfight in front of the band!" After the anglos in the crowd recoiled slightly, everyone cheered. Ten minutes later, as usual, we all forgot about it and decided to practice instead.

The next morning, after being awakened for the last time by the roaches trying to drag race across my chest, I was freaked by some awful screeching outside. Someone had acquired two odd-looking chickens and tied them up to the front of the apartment. Somehow we knew that these drag-queens of the bird world weren't for eating.

First Clue: They were separated. Whoever tied them up knew these birds didn't like each other and were bred to be antisocial.

Second Clue: They looked too good to eat. These animals had elaborate, colored plumes and weren't the usual obese human-chow. They were tall, thin, and apparently strong.

Third Clue: When we tried to let them roam free, instead of running away they attacked each other.

Fourth Clue: We remembered that one of the people at the BBQ the day before was proud of the fact that he could get "anything for anyone". Shit.

The preparation for show went on as usual, until the last things to be loaded were the "Props". I thought, "Oh, we'll just parade them around on their cute leashes, and that'll be enough to appease the bloodthirsty". The PA, the loading, the costumes, the BBQ, the weather, and the songs were enough, but loading two insane chickens was really starting to freak me out. But they got there alright, after a friend who had handled the monsters in Mexico drove them in his truck. (Bet that was a fun 5 blocks.)

TaCoLaNd is a small one-room club overlooking the open sewer called the San Antonio River. The show had the expected dense-as-Hell's-locker-room look, feel and smell. I was constantly leaving to get some air, and we were the last band. So, I found myself regularly checking the bird to see if they were OK, or if anyone was fucking with them.

Sure enough, just as Boxcar Satan went on before us, one of the birds turned up missing. Word had gotten 'round to the PETA wannabes and bloodthirsty in the crowd that there might be a "cockfight" during the Chapstik set. But I couldn't figure out if the thieves were just uptight hippies acting on a rumor and a chance to look like "heroes". Or was it one of the hoards of insane carnivores churning inside? (Or did Ram suddenly decide to start serving Chicken Tacos again?)

I made the call, "Fuck it! It isn't worth a vegan riot or a carnivorous frenzy just to use these birds."

Even though our amps are really loud, and our drummer likes to surprise us with extra loud hits; I wasn't prepared for the noise and confusion that exploded midway through the Chapstik set. First, the fireworks went off all around us and the crowd. (Keep in mind that the stage and the audience area at Tacoland are basically the same thing.) People are all around us. Smoke bombs and firecrackers are belching under my feet. Out of the corner of my eye I see "the" monitor fly towards the back. Then I look down to see an unnamed member of Boxcar Satan (the hint is that he is well hung) strumming my guitar with his penis.

"OK," Chapstik all think together,"this is a great show, but how do the songs go again?"

Just as I was remembering the chords to the bridge of our last song, the screaming started. People finally backed away from me and the microphone. I felt a brushing on my back, but assumed it was a straggler left behind during the screaming. The lingerer wasn't human, but it was pissed. I looked quickly behind and remembered the face behind the new cloud of feathers as the freak who said he could get us "anything".

The bird was even more freaked out than the crowd in seconds. The animal was trying to fly. Have you ever watched a roach try to fly? This was more scary, because this thing had claws, and was trained to use them. The temporarily sober crowd could do nothing but make momentary holes for the bird's crack-induced impression of "Flashdance".

It was beautiful. Vegans and carnivores, equally scared for their thin skins, around this whirling dervish of feathers and claws sharpened by professionals in the SouthSide.

The terror and camaraderie only lasted for a few bars of a hectic song. Soon, the cock was hanging out by my feet just looking up at me for the duration of the song. It looked like he was saying, "When are you bastards going to let me kick that other chicken's ass instead of all these hippies' ankles?!"


The next day: I wasn't feeling well (surprise!). The BBQ, organizing the show, the fireworks, the demonic bird trying to climb up my jumpsuit... it all made me thirsty. Pulling up to the "Crack 'n Go" convenience mecca, my stomach notified me that I was never to eat chicken again. I told Mr. Stomach, "Fine, I'll puke as soon as I pull into the parking lot!" (Scary bastard)

Unfortunately, the lot was filled with cop cars and motorcycles - apparently for the daily donut roundup. Cops everywhere and I was in a rental car. Before I could think, I was emptying my borrowed lunch (gallons of it) into my favorite stagewear: the white jumpsuit. Cops in the patrol car next to me had no idea as I laid white sack of vomit next to them and slowly pulled away.

I drove to a cop-free store and got the required Gatorade (passing on the Menudo). Just for kicks, I drove back by the first, cop-infested store, in my inconspicuous rented Neon. There was no trace of the beautiful jumpsuit, or the vomit, or even the ringer shirt I used to wipe my mouth/spigot. For this theft, I initially suspected the homeless guys in the park, but then I remembered the look on that chicken's face as he was staring up at me the night before. Was he looking at me? ...or my jumpsuit? We never found either bird after the show.

Thanks to Joe Barfield for the Chapstik link.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Last Band At Taco Land!

Click to make it bigger and print your own damn flyer, Pussy!

Now Available: The Swindles: Last Band At Taco Land CD/DVD. Get yours at the Release Party at The Cove on Thursday, March 6th, 2008.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Ram, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

We miss you already! Thanks to the kids at Grackle Monday for the photo. Kaw Kaw

Monday, June 25, 2007

Do It For Ram.


Got your own classic or funny Tacoland story like the ones below?

Proove it!

What about an old flyer, photo, video or one of a kind Tacoland keepsake?

Share it!

Simply leave a comment in the comment section or email me.

Share it with Stories from The House Of Ram and we'll not only make sure you get it back, we'll give you credit on the web site, in the book and on the Official Stories from The House Of Ram DVD. And, to say thanks for sharing (because without you, this whole project would totally suck!) we're gonna make sure you get a free copy of the book and some other surprises that are in the works.

Proceeds will benefit The Tree or a yet to be determined benefactor, one that would make Ram proud.

So go for it.

Don't be a Pussy.

Do It for Ram.

Send your story via the comments section of this site.

Or send me an email regarding any of the above mentioned photos, flyers, videos or any other Tacoland ephemera and we'll figure out a way to get it up on this little tribute to Ram site.

Attention: (TacoLand)

If you want your stuff back and credit given where' it's due, place your stuff in an envelope, box or anything self contained that's got your name, email and contact information on it.

Remember, the more clearly you write, the faster this stuff will get archived and returned. Plus, writing clearly will greatly increase the chances of you ever seeing your shit again!

Keep in mind that we'll be categorically archiving everything digitally by year along with subcategories for Stories, Flyers, Photos, Jokes, The Gospel According To Ram, History, MP3 Downloads of Tacoland performances, and yes, updates on what's up with The Tree and the Sacred Ground on which it stands.

Thanks in advance for everyones contributions to this project. Your help, comments, suggestions and advice are totally welcome - email me and I'll be in touch as soon as possible. I can't do this alone - I just wanted to plant the seed and pay my respects to a good man and a great human being, Ramiro "Ram" Ayala. San Antonio lost a little part of it's soul on the morning of June 24, 2005. Harshing everyone's Spurs buzz to boot.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Needles and The Crack Rock.

True Stories From Taco Land

By Yawn Blog

Place: Tacoland
When: mid-90's
Who's Playing: The Needles
Ram Factor: It Ain't That Kind Of Club

Some band was playing - I always hated the sound in there and had no interest in rock and roll by my late twenties, so I always sat outside drinking $1.50 beer on the patio. Now that was something that I was interested in. Tito, on the other hand, really enjoyed checking out the bands. The relaxed atmosphere really facilitated a lot of one-on-one conversations with the bands in between sets.

The night some band The Needles were playing I was really wanting a crack rock and they were really wanting to sell me a Needles CD. I think they started at $10 and I said no, that’s all the money I had, so they lowered it to $7. Hmmm… CD or crack rock.“Hey Tito, can I borrow $7?” I asked.“Sure.” Okay, so I pass Tito’s $7 to the guy and slip over to the corner of the patio where there’s a vato on a 10-speed bike.“Oye amigo - tienes piedrita?” I asked.“Cuanta?” he replied.“Como cinco, diez- si tienes?” “Claro,” he replied, pulling a $5 nugget out of his snap-up western style shirt and charging me $10.“Gracias amigo.”

I put the rock in the end of my cigarette and lit it slow, trying to maximize the effects of the $5 rock for which I had just paid $10. Then I overhear that punk from The Needles selling his lousy CD for $5 to some other guy after he tried to charge me $10 and worked it down to $7. I didn’t bother to say anything to him.

That’s Tacoland for you.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ram Jam 2

Tomorrow night, Saturday April 14th, Ram Jam 2 at Sam's Burger Joint

The Second annual gathering of the Taco Land tribe is designed to celebrate the life of the Godfather, the late, great Ram Ayala.

There'll be music from punk to folk to combinations thereof, including Big Drag, Sons of Hercules, Los Mescaleros with Suzy Bravo, Los #3 Dinners, Snowbyrd, The Tombstones, Texacala Jones & Her T.J. Hookers, Hyperbubble, Davy Jones & The Ideals and Chrissy Flatt & Eric Hisaw.

Everyone on the bill honed their chops, social skills and liquor-holding talents at the House of Ram.

Proceeds from the Ram Jam benefit San Antonio College radio station KSYM.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ram's Killer Gets Death Penalty

A jury this evening decided Joseph Gamboa should receive the death penalty for the 2005 slayings at Taco Land, a bar that was a mainstay on the city's underground music scene.

The 379th District Court jury returned its verdict after more than five hours of deliberations, finding that Gamboa was a continuing threat to society and that there were no mitigating circumstances to spare his life. Jurors also found that he intentionally caused the deaths.

The same jury last week convicted Gamboa, 24, of capital murder in the June 24, 2005, shootings and robbery that killed bar owner Ramiro "Ram" Ayala, 72, and doorman Douglas "Gypsy Doug" Morgan, 53. Bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger, 41, was shot but survived.

The popular bar and music spot closed after the slayings.

Prosecutors said Gamboa was the gunman in the shootings.

A co-defendant, Jose Najera, 31, is awaiting trial.

Elizabeth Allen for the Express-News

Life or Death?

By Elizabeth Allen at the Express-News

A jury today is deliberating whether Joseph Gamboa should live or die for the 2005 slayings during a robbery at Taco Land, a bar that was a mainstay on the city's underground music scene.
Jurors received the case at about 12:45 p.m. after attorneys for the state and defense presented their final arguments in 379th District Court.

The same jury last week convicted Gamboa, 24, in the June 24, 2005 shootings that killed bar owner Ramiro "Ram" Ayala, 72, and doorman Douglas "Gypsy Doug" Morgan, 53. Bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger, 41, was shot but survived.

The popular bar and music spot closed after the slayings.

Prosecutors contend Gamboa was the gunman in the shooting.

Jurors only have two sentencing options for Gamboa -- life in prison or the death penalty.

A co-defendant, Jose Najera, 31, is awaiting trial.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Trial Begins

Man Accused Of Double Slaying In Bar Goes On Trial
Pictured above is Trigger Pussy Joseph Gamboa.

The only employee who survived a fatal shooting and robbery at a nightclub near downtown testified Friday in a capital murder trial.

Denise Koger identified Joseph Gamboa in court as the man who fatally wounded Ram Ayala, the owner of Taco Land, and Dennis Morgan, a bartender.

Koger testified that after Gamboa shot Ayala and Morgan, he turned the gun on her.

Koger told jurors that despite giving the defendant money, he still shot her.

Koger survived the shooting, but Ayala died at the scene and Morgan died 19 days later in the hospital.

Gamboa was later arrested in jail, where he was being held on charges of pulling a similar robbery two days after the bar killings.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Jurors being picked in Taco Land case

Jury selection began Friday in the capital murder trial of Joseph Gamboa, 24, accused in the 2005 slayings of Taco Land owner Ramiro "Ram" Ayala and doorman Douglas Morgan, as well as the shooting of bartender Denise Koger.

Gamboa and Jose Najera, 30, were both charged about two weeks after the robbery at the bar that June 24. Gamboa was already in jail, arrested in connection with a South Side shooting spree that took place days after the Taco Land slayings.

Najera was arrested after police acted on an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers. Witnesses identified both men from photo lineups.

Morgan, 53, also known as "Gypsy," died more than two weeks after the gunshot wound to his abdomen.

The defendants are each charged with two counts of capital murder and one count of attempted capital murder.

The killings ended the long reign of Taco Land as a mainstay of the local underground music scene. Ayala, 72, had a reputation for gruffness and yet warmth that drew him a substantial base of friends and fans.

Jury selection in 379th District Judge Bert Richardson's court could take up to a month because jurors are interviewed one by one in the capital case.

Najera's trial has not been scheduled.

Thanks To The Express-News

Friday, January 26, 2007

Jury selection begins in Taco Land slayings trial

Jury selection began today in the capital murder trial of Joseph Gamboa, accused in the June 2005 Taco Land slayings of Taco Land owner Ramiro "Ram" Ayala and doorman Douglas Morgan.

Family members closed the popular Grayson Street bar after its iconic 72-year-old owner died. Bartender Denise Koger was also wounded in the robbery.

Jose Najera was also arrested and charged in the shooting.

Jury selection could take up to a month, as jurors in capital murder trials are interviewed one at a time.

Thanks to Elizabeth Allen Express-News Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Me & Ram

Rest in peace my friend.


Monday, August 22, 2005

The Patron Saint Of Taco Land

Photo By: Brian Parrish

The Cliff

Photo By Brian Parrish

I went to the edge. There I stood and looked down.

A Poem For 'Gypsy' Doug Morgan


Doug was big... wide...
Arms like legs.
Before he came to San Antonio
he worked in a bathtub factory.
He would lift the tubs
from the rack
and load them in the kiln.
When the porcelain was fired
he'd lift them again.
Arms like legs...

He was not that tall
but he was big.
And he had a big heart.
His voice was soft...
His manner was disarming.

Did I tell you he was strong?
He had his weaknesses
but he was strong enough
to overcome them.

He lived for a while
in a shack with a basement
dug by a quarry worker
near Alamo Stadium.

In the 1980s,
he sold mushrooms
to too many people.

In the 1990s,
he almost chopped off his finger
working as a butcher
on St. Mary's Street.
He was that strong.

Did I tell you
he was strong-willed?
He laid down the bottle
when it interfered
with what he wanted to do.

Strong... Gentle... Non-Drinker...
Perfect fit for a doorman
in SA's premiere punk rock club.

Near perfect, I should say...

Ram went down with Taco Land.

Doug, bless his big heart,
held on to life for weeks.

The bullets that would
kill a lesser man right away
gave Doug a slow death.

Ram was a cantankerous character...
ornery owner of Taco Land.
We all loved him.

But Doug was a brother...
I'll miss him forever.

Don Mathis
for 'Gypsy' Doug Morgan

The Entrance

Photo By Brian Parrish

Friday, August 19, 2005

Three Lone Stars

True Stories From Taco Land

By Russell

Place: Tacoland
When: One Night in 2003
Who's Playing: Pillow Of Wrongness
Ram Factor: One-Chinaman Limit

My band was touring through Texas in 2003, and we played a show at Taco Land. As far as I could tell this was the cool place in town to play, despite the lack of a website or answering machine. I did successfully reach someone at the bar on the phone, and booked a monday night at 11:00 P.M., which I was told was when people started coming in there. I called back about 3 weeks later to reconfirm the show, and this crochety-sounding guy with a heavy mexican accent answers the phone. I explain to him that we're a band from L.A. and we booked a show there. He looks at the calendar and says we're not on it. I say we booked it through this woman at the bar, whose name I forget, and he says "she don't work here no more." At this point I'm thinking of saying "thank you" and hanging up, but he says no to worry we could play there. but they don't have a P.A. system. So I look for San Antonio bands online and write to find out if anyone has a P.A. and wants to play with us that night, and sure enough we hook it up.

When we get to SA the first thing we do is spin by the place to check it out. It looked comlpetely abandoned, like it had been closed for 5 years. We were a bit nervous at this point, but decided to go to our hotel, settle in and come back later. Our bassist, Albert, was Korean, and let's just say him and Texas didn't seem to get along that well.

This was our last show of the tour, and he said that he'd just sit in the car until show time, which was 2 hours from then. We told him he was being ridiculous, that there was nothing to worry about, no one was looking at him funny, etc. The rest of us go in, and from first glance were in love. and then we met Ram. probably took 2 or 3 glances to fall in love with him, but here's how it happened. We went up to the bar and ordered 3 Budweisers. He say "Ok, that's a dollar each." Being from LA we were already in heaven. As we're handing over the money, he pulls out 3 Lone Stars from behind the bar, and says "But if you want these, they're free for band members. "We all stare at each other, look back and say "Three Lone Stars!!" This starts the beginning of a very drunken evening.

We go out to the car and get our bassist and tell him to come in cuz everything's fine. He steps foot in the door, and we tell Ram that he's in the band too, so he can get free beer. The first words out of Ram's mouth were "We have a One-Chinaman limit here." Well, I guess he should have stayed in the car after all. It was a priceless moment. In fact there was another woman of Asian descent in the bar, and despite Ram's quip, and several other Asian-related points of humor he exounded upon that night that I won't share.

Ram was making out with aforementioned Asian lady an hour later. We didn't take stage until 12:30 at night on a Monday, and for whatever reason there was water all over the floor by the stage, and it looked like it could easily hit the power strips and amps, so our guitarist grabs a mop and starts soaking it up. It's to date the only gig that we've had to mop the stage before playing due to danger of electrocution. but, again, priceless.

Ram called us pussies a dozen times, gave us stickers saying "Is it too loud for you PUSSY??" and at the end of the night, he took us back by the bar, pulled out a six-pack of Lone Star and says "here, take this for the road. "It would be impossible to forget the one night we spent at Taco Land, and I always figured I'd get back there soon... I guess not. But at least we were there.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I Promise!

photo by Dr. SuaveTone

First Annual Blood Drive August 14, 2005

There will be a memorial service held in memory of Taco Land owner,
Ramiro "Ram" Ayala, on Sunday, August 14th, 2005 starting at 8:30 pm. It
will take place at the historic Josephine Theatre, which is located at 339
W. Josephine Street (at the corner of W. Josephine & N. St. Mary's).

There will be live music by The Infidels, The Rhythm Kings, Los Mescaleros and others, as well as remembrances by many of Ram's friends, family & members of the San Antonio & Austin music community. The event is free & open to the public. All of Ram's friends & fans are invited to attend.

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center will also be on-hand throughout the evening for a very special Blood Drive. This Memorial Blood Drive will begin at 6:00 pm in front of the Josephine Theatre, and will continue inside the lobby when the doors open at 8:30 pm. The hope is that this drive will generate as many as 100 units of blood for the center, which is currently operating on only a one-day supply. This event will also act as a "blood replacement drive", benefiting our friends Denise "Sunshine" Koger and the late Douglas "Gypsy Doug" Morgan. If there are any outstanding medical expenses for either (or both), the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center will direct a donation for every unit collected that night toward those hospital bills.

In addition to helping to boost the South Texas blood supply at this
critical time, donors will receive a commemorative Memorial
T-Shirt while the supply lasts. This shirt will not be sold or reproduced,
so donors are encouraged to arrive early.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the Josephine Theatre on this Sunday, August 14th for this memorial service & celebration of a truly wonderful man's life.

Please help us to spread the word of this event, by forwarding this
to as many friends & fellow members of the music community as

Thank you
Jerry Clayworth

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Graveside Service for Doug Today 2:00

Today at 2 p.m. Aug 3 there will be a graveside service for Doug 'Gypsy" Morgan.
This is open to all family and friends of Doug, at San Jose Burial
Park (out on Mission Rd on the south side).

Cemetery Lot #89
GRU #6, B2b,
S2 Cemetery Lot no. 4407940

God Speed Doug. Say hey to Ram from all of us.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

To The Friends of Doug Morgan

Just a quick note to friends of Doug Morgan. From the family a big
hug and thank you so much for making what could have been a very hard
time, into an up lifting occasion. Barbara and George Hecox (Dougs
parents) both expressed what a joy it was to get to meet you all and
how it lifted their hearts to realize that their son Doug was so well

Doug will remain in San Antonio where his extended family is, He
will be at the San Jose Burial Patk. A grave side service will be
held sometime in the first part of August when Barbara and George get
back down here. It will be open to you each.

I want to express my thanks to you all for being there for Doug
and hope you will continue in community to support Denise (Sunshine)
and the families of Doug and Ram. A memorial service is scheduled for
Ram in August on Sunday the 14th with the place to be announced soon.

PLEASE send this message to anyone you thank should receive it as my
e-mail list is a little short of all the addresses.

Your friend
Claude Butch Morgan

Claude"Butch" Morgan
603 Windy Knoll
Devine,Texas 78016
cell: 210.884.1572

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sam's Benefit July 30

In the aftermath of the June 24 shootings at Taco Land, there were hopes and prayers that bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger and doorman "Gypsy" Doug Morgan would survive the attack that claimed the life of Ram Ayala, the storied owner of the storied place.

Musicians and fans sprang into action to put together benefits to pay tribute to Ram while raising money for Koger and Morgan. Sam's Burger Joint, up the street from Taco Land, had an opening July 30 and immediately that date was pegged for a Taco Land fundraiser.

Morgan died July 13; Koger is recovering. But the mourning continues and it's likely there'll be more good stories and more good will Saturday at Sam's when a bunch of artists, including Bone Machine, Satantonio, Double Clutch, Prepare to Defend It, Racing for Last, Claude "Butch" Morgan & H!X and Eric Geyer team to remember Ram and Doug and continue to send get-well wishes and give a monetary assist to Sunshine.

Jim Beal Jr


Saturday, July 23, 2005

"You wanna fucking beer?"

A Familiar Site, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Man, I'd love to be able to stop by Taco Land and have Ram serve me an ice cold Lone Star right now.

True - 1st time at Tocoland I went with my spouse Linda. In awe of the place. Sons of Hercules was setting up and starting to play. I went to the bar and there was Ram, sunglasses and all. I meekly asked "for a bud light and asked what kind of wine coolers do you have?" Ram answered "You wanna fucking beer?" He was talking to a waitress and not paying me any attention. I said "yes, I want a beer and a wine cooler" Ram said " No, do you want a fucking beer?" with a very slight grin on his face. So I said "Ya I want a fucking beer'. He handed me a miller lite, and I asked for a wine cooler and got whatever. I sat there at the small bar and had about 3 more beers(bud lites) and talked to Ram a little more that night and realized he was just a regular guy, loved the women, loved getting people to loosen up, and loved running Tocoland. These stories make sure his life becomes legend.

Kieth Briggs

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Jump Start Gathering for "Gypsy" Doug

"Gypsy" Doug Morgan passed away at 8:29 PM on Wednesday, July 13th, 2005 at University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. There will be a gathering in his honor at the Jump Start Theater in the Blue Star Complex on South Alamo Street on Monday, July 18th starting at 6:00 PM.

Thanks to Saxman Georgefor the update.

Rest In Peace Doug "Gypsy" Morgan

Taco Land shooting claims another life

Mary Moreno
Express-News Staff Writer

His mother had told him it was OK to let go. And Wednesday night, Doug "Gypsy" Morgan did just that.

After more than two weeks of trying to recover from a gunshot wound that pierced his intestines, Morgan, 53, became the second fatality of the June 25 shooting at Taco Land that also claimed the life of the iconic bar's owner, Ramiro "Ram" Ayala.

Police have said Ayala, Morgan and Denise "Sunshine" Koger were shot during a robbery at the Grayson Street bar. Ayala was shot first, then Morgan and finally Koger. Koger has told Morgan's family that he saved her life by shielding her from the gunfire.

An anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers led to the arrests of Joseph Gamboa, 22, and Jose Najera, 29. Each was charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of attempted capital murder and remained jailed.

It wasn't immediately known if Morgan's death would result in upgraded charges.

Morgan died at University Hospital at about 8:30 p.m. with his mother, stepfather, sister and a friend keeping him company.

Morgan had seemed to be recovering from his injuries after operations to repair his intestines, said his mother, Barbara Morgan Hecox. He sat up, talked a bit and even smiled. He asked about what had happened at the bar and when told his good friend Ayala had died, he cried.

But Morgan developed internal infections and his kidneys began to malfunction, and then so did his liver. And his intestines were leaking.

"He is considered septic right now," Hecox said minutes before Morgan died.

Doctors told his mother, who arrived here Saturday from Albuquerque, N.M., that any further treatment was futile, that Morgan likely wouldn't survive another surgery. She then made the difficult choice to have him removed from life support Monday morning, leaving his family with nothing to do but wait for him to die.

Hecox said that although her son was unconscious for the last few days of his life, she held his hand and talked to him, hoping that would provide him some comfort.

"It's OK to go anytime you're ready," Hecox told her son. "Everybody here loves you."

While waiting at University during what would be her son's last hours, Hecox talked proudly of him, about his vast book collection and his immense love of music. Morgan had more than 100 boxes filled with books. He had always loved to read, absorbed much of it and used it to debate with anyone who would take him on.

"Although he just went through high school, he was so well read," she said.

And the music was why he worked as a doorman at Taco Land — a place Hecox thought was a pizza place. He loved the bands and being around musicians.

Hecox said there was a blessing in having to come here — she found out how many friends her son had.

Because they lived so far away from each other, Hecox worried constantly about the son she adopted when he was 3 months old.

She worried that he didn't have a bed to lie on because he was sometimes homeless. She worried about his health because he battled cancer and had hepatitis C. She also wondered if he was alone.

During her stay here, she found out he wasn't. A steady stream of musicians, artists and "even normal people," she said laughing, went by the hospital to visit her son.

"It's just been a revelation," she said. "There's this wonderful guy that half of San Antonio loves and that makes us feel welcome and proud."

Morgan's friends told her stories of his generosity and kindness, about how he babysat for friends and made sure the bands that played at Taco Land were taken care of. "It's been good for us to hear about it," she said.

Hecox said her son would be cremated, and although she would like to have his remains closer to her, she's not taking him with her.

"He belongs in Texas," she said sobbing. "So we'll leave him here."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Sad News For Gypsy Doug

Hello Friends of Doug Morgan. Dougs Mother and I met with his
surgeon today. The last 72 hours has seen Doug condition go steadily
down. His stomach wound has ruptured and another operation would be
necessary to repair it. That means they would have to perform the
whole operation again and do extensive exploratory work. His liver is
just about done as the Hepititus C and just the energy the liver had
to exert the last two weeks has greatly depleted it's strength. Now
his kidneys are really slowing down and he has had sever seizures.
His pulse is slowing as well. He is currently on life support. After
conferring with his surgeon, Dougs Mom, Barbara, and his sister
decided that it would serve Dougs best interest to stop all life
support, and simply let him rest comfortably, making sure he is not
in pain. The prognosis for recovery was very very slim, .05% at best
and that would be nursing home and dialysis. He would also still have
to have chemotherapy for his liver problems. His quality of life
would be very poor IF he even made it through the surgery to repair
the new rupture.

This is sad news for those of us who love Gypsy Doug, but in the
light of all the Dr. said the family believes it is the best for
Doug, and that it would be his wishes as well... So tomorrow at 9 a.m.
all assistance will stop. He will be treated for comfort only. The
Dr. says once the life support is removed it would not be very long
before he just goes to his eternal rest. At that point all of Dougs
problems will cease and he will be healed forever. To that we can all
say Hallelujah.

There will be a service, I will send out a notice and the newspaper
will have all the details. Thank you for your support and prayers,
they are needed now for the immediate family and close friends of
Gypsy Doug.

Claude "Butch" Morgan

Friday, July 08, 2005

Memorial & Fundraiser at Casbeers

Ram, Sunshine & Doug

Jim Beal
San Antonio Express News

Memorials for Taco Land's Ram Ayala, and benefits for bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger and doorman "Gypsy" Doug Morgan, the two people wounded the night Ram was slain in his storied bar, continue.

Casbeers comes off of vacation tonight with a memorial/fundraiser featuring some of the bands whose members number their involvement at Taco Land in decades — Mitch Webb & the Swindles, The Infidels, True Stories, Butch Morgan & H!X and Los #3 Dinners. There'll likely be some guests.

With that bunch, patrons will hear rock 'n' roll galore plus stories that go back to the time when Taco Land was the performing home for conjuntos and West Side R&B bands as well as punk bands and those who stretch musical boundaries.

Other benefits/tributes are in the works. Word is there'll be one tonight at the Wiggle Room, though there are no details. Sam's Burger Joint will be the setting for a tribute/benefit July 30.

And there is good news from the medical front. Koger has been released from the hospital. Morgan is still in intensive care but is improving.

Organizers of the benefits and musicians who participate are being realistic. Everyone knows benefits will never raise enough money to pay off medical bills. But all are bound and determined to make sure Koger and Morgan don't have to struggle to do things such as pay rent and utilities while they recover.

San Antonio Express News Front Page

Read The Full Story

Joseph Gamboa & Jose Najera Charged In Slaying

Vianna Davila
Express-News Staff Writer

Two men were charged Thursday with capital murder and two counts of attempted capital murder in a shooting at the Taco Land music venue.

The attack in the early hours of June 24 claimed the life of the club's owner, Ramiro "Ram" Ayala, and sent two employees to the hospital.

Fingerprints found on a pool cue and the identification of the men in photo lineups earlier this week led officials to issue the charges, police Sgt. Gabe Trevino said.

Joseph Gamboa, 22, already was in Bexar County Jail on charges of attempted capital murder and attempted murder in connection with a South Side shooting spree that took place two days after the Taco Land slaying, Trevino said.

He was re-arrested and charged Thursday afternoon.

A police SWAT team arrested Jose Najera, 29, without incident at a house in the 500 block of Wilmington Avenue about 3:10 p.m. Thursday.

Najera's was held in lieu of posting combined bonds of $700,000. Gamboa's bond wasn't immediately known.

The slaying of Ayala, owner of the small, grisly nightclub in the 100 block of West Grayson Street, shocked the community. Both the venue itself and Ayala had become mainstays of the city's underground music scene since he converted the spot into a bar in 1969.

Witnesses said both men had spent part of that night drinking and playing pool inside Taco Land.

Trevino said detectives believe Gamboa fired the shots that hit the bar owner and wounded Denise Koger, 41, and Douglas Morgan, 53.

Morgan, the club doorman, remained in serious condition Thursday at University Hospital. Koger, a bartender, had been discharged.

The only known motive for the 1 a.m. shooting is robbery, the sergeant said. Money from the cash register was taken before the attackers fled in a silver sports car.

Music promoter and longtime Taco Land devotee Roland Fuentes wasn't there that night because the scheduled bands had canceled. But some time after the shooting, he talked to Koger, who told him the assailants never before had been inside the bar.

"They didn't look familiar," Koger reportedly told Fuentes. "They didn't know how much beer prices were. They didn't know a lot of little things like the regulars would know."

That night, Najera wore an old San Antonio Spurs championship T-shirt, according to an arrest affidavit. The shooting occurred a few hours after the team clinched the NBA Championship.

Najera first denied being at the club, saying he was at his girlfriend's house and then left for home after the Spurs' win.

He later admitted he got one beer at Taco Land and then left before the shooting took place, the affidavit stated.

A witness quoted in a June 25 San Antonio Express-News report said he saw one of the attackers strike up a conversation with Ayala and then stick a gun in his gut before he fired.

The affidavit said both Koger and Morgan then got down on the ground behind the bar. When Morgan got up to help Ayala, Gamboa asked him if he planned to help get the money. Then Gamboa shot him.

Najera commanded Gamboa to "make the bitch open the cash register," the affidavit continued. Gamboa grabbed Koger by the hair and forced her to open the register. She turned around to open another drawer filled with money when Gamboa shot her in the back.

The status of the case seemed static until Saturday, when a witness who played pool with Gamboa and then watched the shooting identified him from a photo lineup. Gamboa's fingerprints were found on a pool cue, Trevino added.

Detectives questioned Najera on Monday; and two days later, Koger picked out his image from another lineup, Trevino said.

How investigators narrowed their search to the men remains unclear.

Prior to their arrests Thursday, both Gamboa and Najera had a tower of other charges stacked against them.

Gamboa had been in jail since June 27, the day after he's accused of speeding through the South Side on a would-be killing spree and firing on four people, wounding two of them.

He was arrested just days before he was to appear in District Court on a December charge of felony possession of a firearm, according to Bexar County records.

He also had a list of other convictions against him, including burglary of a building and possession of a knife.

A July 26 court date was set for Gamboa on a marijuana possession charge.

Najera's criminal history is similarly varied: He pleaded no contest to burglary of a vehicle and two counts of vehicle theft in 2000; and again pleaded no contest to another charge of vehicle theft and evading arrest in 2003.

He pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a vehicle in 1997.

Hours after the pair were charged in the Taco Land slaying, Fuentes fielded phone calls as news of the arrests spread.

He was relieved but also felt more sadness knowing two suspects were behind bars.

"Now I know for sure that it's the end," Fuentes said.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Two Charged In Taco Land Slaying

Web Posted: 07/07/2005 05:36 PM CDT

Vianna Davila
Express-News Staff Writer

Two men were charged with capital murder and two counts of attempted capital murder today for a shooting last month at the legendary music venue Taco Land.

The incident claimed the life of the club’s owner, Ramiro “Ram” Ayala, and sent two employees to the hospital in critical condition.

Joseph Gamboa, 22, was already in Bexar County Jail on charges of attempted capital murder and attempted murder for a South Side shooting spree that took place two days after the June 24 homicide at Taco Land in the 100 block of West Grayson, said San Antonio Police Department Sgt. Gabe Trevino.

He was re-arrested and charged this afternoon.

Jose Najera, 29, was arrested without incident today by the San Antonio Police Department SWAT team around 3:10 p.m. at a near-downtown home in the 500 block of Wilmington Avenue, almost at the same time police sent out a media advisory asking for information leading to his whereabouts.

Their bond was not immediately available.

Both men had been drinking at the bar, playing pool and conversing with Ayala before detectives believe Gamboa fired the shots that hit Ayala and wounded 41-year-old Denise Koger and Douglas Morgan, 53, Trevino said.

The only known motive for the shooting is robbery, Trevino said. Money from the cash register was taken before the men fled in a silver sports car.

Investigators linked both Gamboa and Najera to the crime through photo lineups and Gamboa’s fingerprints on a pool cue from inside the bar, Trevino said.

A witness said he had played pool with Gamboa that June night. Then he watched his pool partner shoot Ayala, Trevino said.

On July 2, Gamboa was identified from a photo lineup. Detectives questioned Najera July 4; two days later, Koger picked out his image from another lineup, Trevino said.

“There was information specific to these suspects before they were put in those lineups,” Trevino said.

Police Charge Suspected Taco Land Murderers

From WOAI 4:50:45 PM

Joseph Gamboa and Jose Najera were charged today with the murder of Taco Land owner Ram Ayala. Gamboa was already in custody at the Bexar County Jail on unrelated charges. Najera was arrested today.

Seventy-two-year-old Ram Ayala was shot to death as he sat at his popular bar on Grayson Street near downtown on June 24th. Denise Koger and Douglas Morgan were also shot in the robbery, but they survived. They remain hospitalized in critical condition.

Crimestoppers was offering a $5,000 reward for information about the murder.

Ayala's family told News 4 WOAI Tacoland most likely close because of their father's death. “The business itself, without my father there is no Tacoland,” Ayala’s daughter Sylvia Navarro said. “Tacoland was reminiscent of Ram Ayala and it was all about my father. Without him, it is not the same.”

Ramiro “Ram” Ayala ran Taco Land, a bar known for helping develop and showcase countless musicians.

“It's a sad day in the music business,” explains booking agent Roland Fuentes. “Tacoland was Ram. His attitude. His style.”

Taco Land is known worldwide; legendary for live music and its unusual owner. Patrons knew Ayala as a gruff curmudgeon of a bartender – with a heart of gold. He opened his one of kind bar to everyone from the homeless to rich college kids. Everyone was welcome.

“He lived hard and he loved hard,” said Fuentes.

“I'm still in shock right now,” said Ayala's son, Mark Cruz. He can't believe his dad is gone. “My dad was kind, big-hearted. Anything that anyone needed, he would give if it would help.”

Friends describe Ram as a man who spent his entire life helping others. He gave many upstart bands their first shot on stage, and bands from across the country looked forward to the chance to play the famed Taco Land.

“Ram cared about all of his bands like they were his sons,” said Fuentes.

In 1969 when the nearby bottling plant shut down, Ram turned his taco joint into a world-renowned live music hotspot.

Jeff Smith played Taco Land in the early 90's. “Ram was a great guy,” said Smith. “He was an unusual individual. He had pretty salty language.”

“He expressed himself a lot with cuss words. I mean, he would cuss everybody out – but in a nice way,” said Frank Rodarte with a grin.

We interviewed Ram in 1999. “To me, it wasn't music at all. It was just a bunch of racket. That was the 'in' thing then,” Ram told WOAI about some of the famed punk bands that had played his bar.

In 1999 Ram was featured in a documentary by Laura Escamilla-Fouratt about Taco Land. “Not everybody can say that they had a movie about a bar - my bar - or a business they have,” Ram said proudly.

Police say Thursday night two newcomers to the bar decided to rob the place. Then shot Ram and two of his employees. Doorman Douglas Morgan, 53, and bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger, 41, were injured in the shooting — Morgan critically.

“He was a person who helped others,” mourner Tony Sanchez told WOAI. “I don't know how anyone could do this. There's no reason for it.”

“It's very tragic,” said Cruz. “I can't believe someone could do this to him.”

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bike Ramble

Bike Ramble, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Missy sent in this tribute to Ram.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Taco Land Booths

Taco Land Booths, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Thanks to El Bart for submitting this shot of the best seats in the house.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Wah, Wah, Wah

A Boring True Taco Land Story

By Some Bay Area Pussy

Place: Tacoland
When: Sunday, April 21, 2002
Who's Playing: Sidney + Maxwell Horse
Ram Factor: Stupid Pussies

We had breakfast at Manita's for the second time, and saw Richard Linklater ("Rick" to Austinians - EJ pointed out a lot of "Slacker" sites around town) and Patricia Arquette dining there too. Afterward I had to be boring and worked in a coffeeshop for the rest of the afternoon - they played nothing but Concrete Blonde all day, which made it much more bearable. EJ and AT went to a river outside of Austin and canoed and swum - dammit, I really, really should have
left my work at home, I hate missing the opportunity to see what's outside of the cities we pop in and out of.

We stopped for yet another installment of great Mexican food - we thought we'd just get takeout and eat it on the road, but it took 30 minutes for the food, then we had to eat it while parked in the lot because there was so much of it in such big containers. Should have just sat down to eat. Duh.

Around sunset we pointed the van in the direction of home and drove an easy hour to San Antone (as immortalized in dozens of country songs - rhymes well with "alone", as in "you left me all…", a ubiquitous topic). Tacoland looks like a bomb shelter, and is located in the middle of what must be a very tolerant residential area. It has a concrete patio to match the concrete block walls, and offers absolutely no creature comforts except some battered red booths scattered around, and a single toilet which is accessible only from the patio. (When the owner informed us that, to go to the bathroom, we should just "go outside, walk around the tree, and pee", there was no doubt in my mind that we'd be urinating in the scrubby forest that bordered a creek outside. What he meant was that the door could be found hidden behind a tree that arched over the place…but I would have believed anything). Our hearts sank as we saw the lack of monitors, and it was an additional bummer to see no evidence of tacos, either.

Having spent four nights in Texas already, we believed our soundperson when he told us that people show up late, so the opener didn't start until 11. We all just hung out in the red booths, drinking our bottled water, writing in journals and listening to various tributes to Tacoland from the jukebox - at some point, someone was moved enough to put together a compilation of songs dedicated to this, um, modest venue.

The opening act was a fella named Sidney, and played a brilliant set of solo numbers with a heavy quotient of the bizarre. He broke strings on both of his acoustics so I loaned him my backup Strat - very interesting to hear one's own instrument played by someone else. I was actually glad for the opportunity to establish some semblance of rapport with him, if no one else, because the joint was populated only with a handful of what were obviously regulars, and fans of rocking-yet-sensitive indie rock they sure didn't seem to be. Sidney finished up to great applause - this is pretty much the only place he plays, he told us later, and he's kinda perfect for the environs - and I went through a nice mime routine of approaching the mic, getting a massive shock, retreating to flip a ground switch or change a plug, then repeating from step one. Finally I got the right combination to ensure my continued existence and we began the most trouble-plagued set ever. Halfway through our second tune, my sound suddently disappeared. I finished the tune acapella, switched guitars, and a few seconds into the next tune it happened again. I bypassed everything but a distortion pedal and launched into the tune again, and it held together just long enough to leave me stranded, mute and sweating, on the next tune. We took a break to try to resolve things, and after five minutes of established what I thought was a consistent sound, things died again. I finally ended up using my backup guitar straight into my second amp, my least favorite combination, all tinny and dry without any distortion whatsoever. On top of my sound problems, all the guitars were going out of tune instantly, and the glares from my bandmates indicated that they wished I'd fully electrocuted myself on the first note instead of putting them through this. All the regulars were playing pool or outside on the patio, except for Sidney and his girlfriend who had long ceased bothering to clap.

We finally called it quits and high-tailed it for an IHOP where we drowned our sorrows in well-fried breakfast specials.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Taco Tunes

Songs that feature Taco Land in some form or fashion:

Dead Milkmen, "Tacoland"
Kevin & the Black Tears, "Taco Land Shuffle"
Mitch Webb & The Swindles, "Let Her Dance"
Boxcar Satan, "Boxcardo's Hideaway"
Los #3 Dinners, "Party Animal"
Geronimo Treviño, "Macho Man From Taco Land"
Tiki Bongo, "Uh Huh, Oh Yeah"
Little Neesie, "Stop It, You're Killing Me"
Chapstik, "Hey, (expletive), Que Paso" (unreleased)
Suzy Bravo & Hammered, "Face Down, Ass Up"

Tiki Bongo

A Plate Full of Taco Land Memories

by: Jim Beal Jr. and Hector Saldaña
San Antonio Express News

Taco Land was a small bar with no shine and no sheen. But for many bands and fans, it was the biggest and best joint in the world. A week ago, in an apparent robbery, Taco Land owner Ram Ayala was shot and killed. Two employees, bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger and doorman "Gypsy" Doug Morgan, were wounded.

Jim Beal
Musicians honor memory of Ram Ayala

Outpourings of grief, Taco Land tales and floods of memories have continued nonstop. It's unlikely Taco Land will ever reopen; without Ram there is no Taco Land. It's likely memories of Taco Land will continue to roll for decades.

"The man was a legend in this town. If there's a San Antonio rock 'n' roll hall of fame, he deserves to be right there at the entrance," said White Rabbit owner Rick Sciaraffa, noting the late-night danger that can lurk in the bar business. "He's somebody that you look at his heart and his intent. It was so pure what he was about. He didn't care about money. But he had a zero-tolerance policy with respect to anyone starting trouble."

A sampling of Taco Land memories, compiled by San Antonio Express News staff writers Jim Beal Jr. and Hector Saldaña:

Sanford Nowlin
Boxcar Satan leader and Express-News business writer lists his most memorable shows:

L7/Cat Butt (1992): Then-unknown female punk quartet L7 invaded Taco Land for a gloriously over-the-top performance that helped explain why they later went on to big things. Fire codes, liquor laws and God knows what else were broken that night.

Steel Pole Bathtub, El Santo, Boxcar Satan: Steel Pole, from San Francisco, let the feedback genie out of Ram's mystery bottle that night and held the crowd in a trance with its precision rhythm section and shimmering arcs of guitar noise. Another spectacular show that came to Taco Land thanks to the selfless efforts of legendary San Antonio punk band El Santo.

Thrall, Boxcar Satan, Two-Dollar Whore: Michigan's Thrall brought its brand of performance-art-meets-noise-rock to Taco Land with such fury, the show climaxed with audience members hanging from the rafters and figuring out ways to dive off a nonexistent stage. Singer Mike Hard wandered naked through the audience much of the night, dripping with sweat and danger.

Eugene Chadbourne/Paul Lovens: The mad scientist with the electric rake and the Fake Book that won't quit teamed up with the German avant-garde jazz drummer Lovens with stellarly warped results. At the end of the night, an inebriated Lovens declared, "In Europe the bars are nice but the owners hate the music; at Taco Land, the bar is not so nice but the owner LOVES THE MUSIC!" Pretty much summed up the Taco Land experience.

Jim Beal Jr.
Express-News arts writer and bassist with the Ear Food Orchestra lists his favorite shows:

Tex & the Horseheads: Singer Texacala Jones, clad in a torn slip and cowboy boots, started the evening chatting with every member of the crowd as if she was the hostess at a family reunion. She ended the night fronting the band while screaming like a banshee and rolling on the floor.

Eugene Chadbourne, Country Giants, Big Drag:
In '92, long before his electric rake was a thing of rock 'n' etc. legend, Chadbourne did a midweek Taco Land show that held everyone, even hard-core regulars, in thrall with a mixture of blues and outer-space experimentation. Country Dick Hays of Country Giants and the Hickoids and guitarist/singer Milton Robichaux of Big Drag, Where the Action Is and Happy Dogs were among those who helped Ram Ayala make Taco Land a music landmark. In retrospect, this was a quintessential Taco Land night.

"Frankfest 2004":
This edition of the annual memorial for the late Frank Lugo, former manager of Hogwild Records, epitomized the best elements of Taco Land by being memorial, family reunion and full-on Taco Land music night featuring an array of bands including young punks Total 13, working with the veterans of Double Clutch and Suzy Bravo & Hammered.

Bell Solloa
Former manager of the SWC Club also spent a lot of time at Taco Land and booked shows there from '99 to '01:

Fleshtones, Sons of Hercules, Where the Action Is: July 2000 show brought out all the high-energy people. We were only allowed to act like that at Taco Land. Ram was so unfazed by the changes that went on around him.

Jeff Smith
Punk rock musician and promoter:

The Minutemen (1984): There weren't too many people there, recalled Smith, who booked the concert. "They were such a great band in such an unlikely venue," he said. "They weren't so happy about (playing Taco Land) when they walked in."

Miles Zuniga, Fastball
Not every concert at Taco Land was memorable. Of course, it depended on point of view.

"We were being shocked by the microphones over and over," Zuniga told the San Antonio Express-News in April 1999, calling the booking the gig from hell. "And there was some drunk weirdo guy there (no, it wasn't owner Ram). I had to get right in his face, and he started flipping me off. He left, and I thought he was going out to his truck to get his shotgun."

Janet Lease
Longtime punk-rock fan says her favorite Taco Land concert was Sons of Hercules. "A lot of times I would hold the door open to let out the smoke," Lease recalled. "Ram never made me pay for my beer. I've been crying about it a lot. I've been going there for 20 years."


Ramiro "Ram" Ayala passed on Friday June 24, 2005. He is survived by his wife of 49 years Agnes, their children Sylvia (Alfred) Navarro, Manuel (Linda) Ayala, Ramiro (Patricia) Ayala Jr., Ernest (Leticia) Ayala and Barbara (Damien) Lopez. His sisters Nena Morillos and Gloria Quintanilla. Grandchildren, Sara and Jared Navarro, Jake, Camille, Sienna, Justin, Miranda, Jeremy and Spencer Ayala, Evan Panagua and Sibonnet and Mereya Chavez. Numerous friends and family. A Private Service was held on Sunday June 26, 2005. Per Rams request He will be cremated and no other services will be held. We would like to thank all of Rams friends from Taco Land for the outpouring of love they have shown. Dad there are no words to express how much we loved you. Manito we will miss you.

Friday, July 01, 2005

A Last Minute Announcement

From Stickpony

Hey friends - a last minute announcement here regarding soemthing you can do to help out Tacoland doorman Gypsy Doug and bartender Denise (both still hospitalized after being shot in the robbery that took the life of owner Ram Ayala).

A benefit is being held to help them offset their medical bills at The Sanctuary (1812-18 Main St., San Antonio, TX 78212) this Sunday. The entire lineup of the scheduled Tacoland show, including Stickpony, has been moved to this event.

The details are still being worked out, but we've been told we're to play in the evening sometime. As it sounds like this is going to be an all day kind of thing, you can probably show up anytime. If you want specifics, call The Sanctuary at 210-732-0313.

For those in Austin and Houston, I know it's kind of a haul, but there is
literally no better cause I can think of - Gypsy Doug and Denise need your
help, so do what you can. Have a safe and enjoyable 4th weekend - we'll look for you in the river city.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Guru Of Good Times

Taco Land-lord

By Gilbert Garcia

At the June 24 wake for Taco Land owner Ram Ayala, Juan Miguel Ramos looked around at the hundreds of people who'd gathered in the club's patio to remember one of the local music scene's defining characters. It occurred to Ramos, drummer for Sexto Sol and a longtime Taco Land regular, that this might be the last time he saw many of these familiar faces.

"There were a lot of people that I don't know if I'll see, or if we'll all ever be in the same place again," Ramos says. "It really is kind of an end."

Creating a sense of community was Ayala's great art, and the power of his scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold personality forged unlikely bonds between bikers, punks, homeless people, and college students eager for a taste of gritty authenticity. That community was shattered on Friday, June 24 at 1:30 a.m., when a Taco Land patron allegedly approached the 72-year-old Ayala at the bar and, after an apparent verbal altercation, fatally shot him in the stomach and wounded two club employees. The gunman and an accomplice fled the bar, leaving money from the register strewn about the floor. At press time, the San Antonio Police Department continued to investigate the case, with the suspects not yet identified or apprehended.

Ayala liked to say that it wasn't the place but the people that made Taco Land special, and he was the ultimate illustration of that point. Certainly, the North Side bar - with its gallery of glossy band pictures and a vintage jukebox loaded with records that hadn't changed in decades - had character, but nothing that particularly set it apart from hundreds of other dives around the country. As for the music, Taco Land hosted some noteworthy bands over the years, such as the Minutemen, the Cramps, Gwar, and the Dead Milkmen (who went on to immortalize Taco Land and Ayala in song). But tons of other clubs could claim a more impressive roster.

Ultimately, what set Taco Land apart was neither its decor nor its music, but Ayala himself. No matter how bad the band might be on a given night, no matter how thin the turnout, you knew things would get entertaining if Ayala was around, guzzling fire-hazard tequila from a Sprite bottle and spreading the good word for his congregation of proud outcasts.

"Sometimes I preferred it when it was a slow night," Ramos recalls. "Sometimes I'd just sit at the bar. Ram knew I wasn't a very talkative person, so he'd just be doing his thing, talking to his buddies. And I'd be sitting there, listening in and just getting a great big kick out of it."

Ayala opened Taco Land in 1965, selling tacos at 10 cents apiece (beer went two for a quarter) to employees of the nearby soft-drink bottling plants. In 1969, he bought the property for $21,000, and eventually transformed Taco Land into a bar catering to a heavy biker constituency. In the early '80s, San Antonio's long-suffering punk scene, which had vainly searched for suitable venues, came calling. At the urging of Hickoids bassist Richard Hays, Ayala allowed Taco Land to become a home for an underground music community that had been homeless up to that point. In doing so, he unwittingly adopted a generation of local punk kids.

Jeff Smith, a musician who played and booked countless shows at Taco Land, met Ayala in 1982, while Smith was playing in the group Bang Gang. Ayala dubbed him "The Original Punk Rocker."

"Our drummer Arthur knew some drug dealers in the neighborhood," Smith recalls, with a laugh. "We had been playing shows at various one-off bars that ended up in some sort of fist fight between a bunch of flyboys, the owners, and the bands. Every club lasted about one-and-a-half shows at that time. So Arthur said, 'Let's go play at this place called Taco Land.' We asked, 'We're going to play at a Mexican restaurant?'"

Bang Gang played at Taco Land's first punk show, along with Millions of Dead Cops (MDC, for the squeamish), Offenders, Marching Plague, Billy Bob Faggots, and special guests the Butthole Surfers. According to legend, Ayala sold plenty of beer that night, so he had no objection to the noisy, anarchistic invasion of his club.

His connection to the punk scene, however, went much deeper than dollars and cents. The young punks were provocateurs, and Ayala intuitively understood that because he liked to provoke people too. His provocations surfaced whenever things got too slow, whenever spirits flagged a bit, whenever he sensed that things needed to get stirred up.

Ramos recalls the soundcheck for a Taco Land gig by Austin's ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead in which Conrad Keely, armed with a monstrous stack of amplifiers, cranked his guitar up to ear-bleeding decibel levels. "It was ridiculous, it was so loud," he says. "I remember they had played at the North St. Mary's Brewing Company and they got the cops called on them for playing too loud and a mini-riot almost broke out. But at Taco Land, Conrad's checking his guitar, it's ridiculously loud, and Ram yells out, 'Is it on?'"

"Is it on?" was part of Ram-speak, a shorthand language built on idiosyncratic phrases that alternately served as warnings, warm greetings, and sarcastic rejoinders. His most famous expression, "Don't Be a Pussy," had many interpretations, but at heart it was as much a punk mantra as "Kick out the jams" or "Never mind the bollocks." It goaded you into dropping your inhibitions, not for a political agenda, but for the sake of pure fun. That's why a Taco Land patron once described Ayala as "the guru of good times."

Ramos first played at Taco Land in the early '90s with the punk band Glorium. The group's members were all in their teens. No one knew who they were. They had not yet written any original material, so they played nothing but covers that night. Ayala showed his support at the end of the night by handing them a 12-pack of beer.

When Ramos and his wife Rosemary married in 2002, they headed straight to Taco Land after their wedding reception, where Ayala showed both his gruffly humorous exterior and carefully concealed soft streak. "She still had her wedding dress on," Ramos recalls. "She told him that we were married, and Ram asked her, 'Why'd you marry him? He's ugly.'

"We didn't know he was doing it, but he passed around a collection jar, so he surprised us with this money when we were leaving. So we went to Taco Cabana and paid for all our friends to eat with the money he collected."

Smith says in his two decades of hanging out at the club, he never saw Ayala face a threat like the one that ended his life. "I've seen a lot of people back down from him - a lot of pretty imposing people," he says. "Once somebody succeeded in making him mad, they'd normally get the impression that he wasn't messing around. I guess in retrospect, he could have used some more backup, but the clientele was his backup, in a lot of ways."

Because Ayala was so inextricable from Taco Land's ambience, and because ownership of the bar made a financial sense to him that it probably wouldn't make to someone trying to buy the bar now, it's hard to imagine the club carrying on without him.

"Ram was in complete control of the aesthetic of the whole place and his personality dominated the vibe of the place," Ramos says. "You could keep the place open as a business. You could sell beer and book bands, but in a way, it's like, what's the point? It's just going to be any other bar without him."

In a 1999 documentary by Laura Escamilla, Ayala encapsulated Taco Land's appeal for two generations of San Antonio bands: "You might not make no money, but you'll have a good time. You can't buy a good time. And a good time is here."

Benefit Shows

Musicians honor memory of Ram Ayala

By Jim Beal
San Antonio Express-News

It's July in South Texas. Sunshine and blues skies are plentiful. But these are dark days on the live-music front.

Last Friday, in an apparent robbery attempt, Taco Land owner Ram Ayala was shot and killed. Two employees, bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger and doorman "Gypsy" Doug Morgan, remain hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

At last report from the Ayala family there will be no public memorial service. Manuel Ayala, speaking for his sisters and brothers, said there was a private service for the immediate family and Ram's remains will be cremated.

"I'd like for the public to understand that we understand their grief," Ayala said. "We want the people who hung out at Taco Land, who lived at Taco Land, who slept at Taco Land to know that we know what our dad meant to people. We understand the sorrow, confusion and anger. For us, it's surreal right now. We feel the same sorrow, confusion and anger. I know everybody is going to be upset about a viewing but this is what my dad wanted."

Ayala said the family is unsure at this point what will happen to Taco Land.

"No one could ever run Taco Land like my dad," Manuel Ayala added. "For me it left with my dad."

What won't be ending any time soon are Ram Ayala tributes coupled with benefits for Sunshine and Gypsy Doug. And that's in the best spirit of Taco Land. In more than three decades of featuring music that ran the gamut from West Side R&B to raw punk, Ram never failed to throw his doors and his patio open for benefits and fundraisers. And he always did so with a wide-open heart.

In keeping with that spirit, it's benefit time.

Sanctuary for Sunshine & Doug

The Sanctuary, 1818 N. Main Ave., will be the setting Sunday for a marathon tribute to Ayala and a benefit for Sunshine and Doug .

Doors are set to open at 3 p.m. with music starting at 4. At last report, bands include S.C. Dreamgirls, The Hickoids, Vatos Locos, Flamin' Hellcats, Pat Todd of Lazy Cowgirls, Los Mescaleros, Stevie Tombstone & the Tombstones, Snowbyrd, Oklahomos, Suzy Bravo & Hammered, Rice & Beans, The Martyrs, Yoshimoto, The Bent Gents and Total 13. It's a safe bet there'll be more.

Music will be presented on two stages. Filmmaker Laura Escamilla-Fouratt's 1999 Taco Land documentary will be screened hourly.

The Dreamgirls' Phillip Luna and his family have set up benefit bank accounts and PayPal accounts for Koger and Morgan. All the information is available at

Word is there'll also be Sunshine and Doug benefits Friday night and July 8 at the Wiggle Room. Casbeers on July 8 will stage a Ram tribute and Sunshine and Doug benefit with music from The Swindles, the Infidels, True Stories, Claude "Butch" Morgan & H!x and, no doubt, others.

"Gypsy" Doug Morgan has been a fixture on the San Antonio music scene for decades. A fan and character who knows a lot about a lot of different kinds of music, Morgan battled more than his fair share of medical problems before being shot. He's never let go of his love for music.

Koger, like most people who spent lots of time working at Taco Land, earned her own fan base. It's a cinch there'll be lots more benefits and lots more tributes for Ram.

Meet Tiny

True Stories From Taco Land

By The Yawn Blog

Place: Tacoland
When: Late 90's
Who's Playing: Unknown
Ram Factor: Be Cafeful Pussy

Last Stop on the Barhop.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Tacoland was always the last stop because by that time of night I was too drunk to see. Who else would put up with somebody that borracho in public besides the Tacoland employees and regulars?

In typical Friday night fashion, my friend Tito (from those legends of rock known as The Harlots) and I stumbled in after an afternoon of barhopping. We’d usually start over in the Medical area and work our way in from



He's Not Here


I Don’t Know Yet




San Antonio Homebrew Supply



Sometimes that homebrew would lead to a certain type of diarrhea that gave your anal sphincter a workout at Tacoland, because fucking Jesus, you never want to bare anus there. You didn’t want to bare dick there, lest a short man named Tiny peep through the crack in the door, lick his lips, and calmly let you know he loves to look at guys’ cocks. As awkward as it was, it was fun, funny, and funtastic.

That was Tacoland.