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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Void At The Center Of The Music Scene

Ayala left mark on local music scene

By Jim Beal, San Antonio Express-News

The gunshot slaying of Ram Ayala at his fabled Taco Land early last Friday and the shooting of bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger and "Gypsy" Doug Morgan have cast a pall over most of the live music scene, a pall that won't be lifted for a long, long time, if ever.

Ayala was a real-deal, unvarnished character with a heart of gold, the patriarch of his own family, kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. Ram also was the patriarch of an extended family that includes the most motley of motley crews, fresh-faced teen musicians and grizzled music vets whose own families think they're nuts to still be playing rock 'n' roll in bars; generations of college students, each of whom believes he was the first to discover the bar at the corner of Grayson and Elmira streets; and homeless people who seek refuge under the ancient oak tree on the patio; the walking wounded, the childhood friends, the curious, the committed, the artists, the fans.

Ram Ayala also was a music fan who supported myriad musicians and other venue owners, even those who could be viewed as direct competitors. His personal tastes ran the gamut from big band jazz to West Side R&B, from conjunto to raw punk, from the experimental to the established. Music will go on. The rock won't stop. People will gravitate elsewhere. And there'll always be a void at the center of the music scene. The small, immediate blessing is there won't be three.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Vantastic Show

True Stories From Taco Land

By Burnin' Mike Vernon
Guitarist for 3 Balls Of Fire

Place: Tacoland
When: mid-90's
Who's Playing: Two Hoots and a Holler + 3 Balls of Fire
Ram Factor: Kiss The Baby

Back in the mid-90's, I played at Taco Land in Rick Broussard's Two Hoots and a Holler. We got so loaded with Ram that no one could make the drive back to Austin so we slept outside the club in the van. Also played there a couple of times at surf night with 3 Balls of Fire...had a blast everytime i was there.

The River's Edge

Misfits, miscreants, and music in the Land of the Taco

By Anjali Gupta for the San Antonio Current

Place: Tacoland
When: July 6th, 2002
Who's Playing: Stinky del Negro
Ram Factor: It's On.

San Antonio's infamous rock 'n' roll mecca, Taco Land, is rapidly approaching an impressive 40-year watermark — just long enough for most of us to take it for granted. Thankfully, the venue and its 70-plus-year-old owner/operator Ram Ayala are still going strong. For generations of musicians, gigging at Taco Land has become a sort of unwritten rite of passage, which in turn makes Ayala the most unlikely of gurus: half burly biker, half benevolent benefactor, and undisputed grandfather of the San Antonio music scene. Every musician and aficionado in San Antonio (and perhaps Texas) has a favorite Taco Land story, and all revolve around Ram in some way, shape, or form. He is, by deliberate understatement, quite a character.

Ram's living room-sized bar is perennially surreal — an experiment in chaos theory gone affably awry, teetering precariously between an endless loop of Repo Man and Up in Smoke, with the intermittent but choice frame from Taxi Driver spliced in for good measure. On a slow night, you can all but hear fish breathing in the San Antonio River below, but on a Big Drag, Murder City Devils, or Belrays kind of occasion, you'll need a well-angled crowbar to venture five feet past the front door.

To the virgin eye, a onceover of Taco Land by day is more likely to spark a change of plans than a ballad, though the Dead Milkmen (among others) managed to pull one off. The venue is flanked by an automotive shop and a large patio, liberally sprayed with graffiti and inhabited by the sprawling remains of a decrepit barbeque pit. But as the harsh light of day ebbs, such relics are washed in a blanket of softening darkness, and the venue begins to exude an odd yet undeniable allure that falls somewhere between an impromptu soup kitchen and a backstage gathering at CBGBs.

The bar is unapologetically understated — rectangular, with a service area and pool table at one end, and an elementary alcove that functions as a stage at the other. The interior's diminutive size and shotgun shack simplicity do have the advantage of successfully blurring the line between performer and audience, a boon that keeps bands who could easily pack larger venues coming back year after year.

Taco Land is a recognizably level playing field, completely stripped of any saccharine trappings of cool. It is unpretentious, gritty, and quintessentially San Antonio. Big shows take on the feel of punk rock homecomings rather then staged events of the sort prevalent at Sixth Street vomitoriums and less- seasoned local alternative venues.

Perhaps it is the low-key nature of the setting, but both the place and owner seem to abet acts of harmless absurdity including a highly contagious and situationally induced form of Tourette's Syndrome. Yet things rarely get out of control. Ram is a patriarch who rules his domain with a velvet fist cast in iron — and the occasional well-aimed cue ball. For the most part, indigents and '09ers mix with relative ease in Taco Land's sub-zero succor.

Neither owner nor regular clientele suffer fools lightly. Bands who overstep their boundaries via crappy attitudes, complicated setups, multiple roadies, large guest lists, and/or other irritating demands are turned out on their not-so-proverbial asses faster then Ram can rattle off his beer menu. Taco Land is a music venue, plain and simple — a worthy pit stop on the road less traveled.

Despite his advanced years and rather flamboyant façade, Ram is a walking anthology of Texas music trivia. Every inch of his bar is covered with flyers of years past. His office is a veritable shrine to musicians past and present, but it may take years for you to work yourself into that inner cavern of confidence. But once you are in the circle, you are always in the circle. Like many of his generation, all his relationships — with performers and patronage alike — are built on mutual respect and a genuine love of music.

Taco Land is not for the weak of will or the thin-skinned. Ram is more likely to taunt you relentlessly than kiss your ass for a tip. But remember — just smile and take it — that usually means he likes you. The proper yet nonsensical response to "Hey, pussy," is "Is it on?" And please, for the love of god, do not ask the man for a glass of water.

You Can Help Doug Morgan & Denise Koger

Two accounts have been set up on behalf of Doug Morgan and Denise Koger, our friends who were seriously injured in Thursday night’s shooting at Tacoland. Denise and Doug are still in intensive care and need all of our prayers, good wishes,and help.

These accounts are set up at Wells Fargo bank. You may deposit CASH ONLY at any Wells Fargo branch OR we have also set up PayPal accounts that transfer funds directly to their accounts. PayPal will accept your credit card or transfer money from your account directly into theirs.

Please call Phillip or Blanca Luna at 210-532-9107 or 210-789-6000 for account information.

Go to and use your PayPal account or set up a free Personal Account for yourself and then enter either Doug or Denise’s emails and the amount you wish to donate. Here are their emails where they will also be notified of your donation.

The funds collected will be used to cover Doug and Denise’s living expenses during their recovery. There are several fundraisers scheduled to raise more money for our dear friends, please stay posted and do what you can to help. Fundraiser organizers are also welcome to use these accounts to deposit the proceeds you collect.

There has been no new information about Thusday night’s shooting. If you have any information that you think may be helpful, please contact S.A.P.D. Det. John Slaughter at 207-7635.

Please forward this message to your e-mail lists.

Thank You and God Bless You,

Phillip and Blanca Luna

Sonny, Noah and Violet

Thanks to Night Rocker.

Monday, June 27, 2005


True Stories From Taco Land

by Stinky del Negro

Place: Tacoland
When: One Sunday Night
Who's Playing: Stinky del Negro
Ram Factor: The Gospel According To Ram

Stinky del Negro played there a couple of times. One Sunday we drove down and played a set dressed as priests. Someone in the band asked the audience, "who went to church today?" and Ram retorted from behind the bar, "You're at church, motherfucker!!"


Better Than Winning A Grammy

True Stories From Taco Land

by greg

Place: Tacoland
When: Sometime, 1993 & 1994
Who's Playing: Noodle + Gut + Boxcar Satan
Ram Factor: Papa Ram

I only played at Taco Land a few times, but two of those times included memorable Ram encounters. The first was in 1993 at a Noodle gig with Gut and Boxcar Satan. I'd broken up with my girlfriend of two years earlier that day and was lucky to have even completed the 78-mile trek to San Antonio on account of a rapidly dying car battery. I couldn't wait to get inside the bar and pop a cold Pearl to calm my nerves before the show. Unfortunately, I'd left my driver's license in Austin and my youthful appearance made it difficult to even get into Taco Land, let alone drink.

"If I catch you drinking," Ram warned, "I'll have your motherfuckin' ass thrown in jail!"

Needless to say, I was one sober 24-year-old that night.

About a year or so later, Noodle was back at Taco Land and I had my I.D. firmly in hand this time. We were right in the middle of a particularly sweaty set and I was bowled over in some ridiculous spastic contortion with my eyes closed. Then I felt something ice cold press against my forehead. I looked up and was pleasantly surprised to see Ram trying to hand me a Pearl for my efforts.

I remember thinking that was about as close to winning a Grammy as I'll ever get.

Dead Kennedys - Still Dead 20 Years Later

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

Alcohol tends to blur circumstances, and I have professed to excess that pilgrimages to Tacoland were the results of binges, rather than the facilitator. Thus most of my memories take place under the floodlight out on the patio and aren’t too clear.

2:30 a.m. we’re in a West Side Tejano bar featuring the marginalized of the local marginalized. I am with a couple of friends who are tripping on mushrooms and drinking beer. Nobody talks to us because we’re white. A man with a missing arm comes by and rubs his stump on one of their legs. Suddenly San Antonio is a very scary place.

Flashback 1 hour.

We’re getting kicked out of Salute over on N. St. Marys. I’m about to kick out their window with my cowboy boots because one of my friends is screwing around in there and we want to get him out and leave. She threatens to call the cops so I dare her to and I tell her to tell them my name. Somehow after 1:51 I still had the sense to give her a fake name.

10 minutes later we’re at Tacoland trying to get in. Some kid (a band member) is wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt and insisting that we pay him $3 each to come in and drink beer even though it’s almost closing time. I’m with Eric and Brian from the Austin supergroup My Education. Now here’s where my memory gets blurry. Brian had words with the guy. Dammit, there was no way in hell we were paying $3 to drink $1.50 beers at 1:45 a.m.!

The conversation ended up something to the effect of Brian saying “Piss off you little punk and take your fucking Dead Kennedys reprint shirt with you!”

Cad Trippin

Cad Trippin
Cad Trippin, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
I found this Googling Taco Land. It's by Joe Annabi @

The caption is "Other than that, I'm actually posting a drawing today. Shocking, I know. This is one I drew at TacoLand in San Antonio while waiting for Jester and Lucil to start their show. For the uninitiated, his name is Cadwallader, and he is a Cacomistle."

Two Nights

Ty Gavin

Friday night.

It was a sad occasion. Once in awhile it was hard not to get
choked up and there were plaenty of tears but it was good and important to be there and except for Ram dying and Doug and Denise getting shot it was a great great party just like what Ram would have liked to have seen.

Just about everybody was there and just about everybody had a story to tell about how Ram helped them or someone they knew. All four corners of the intersection had a group of people. Plenty of news people there and a few detectives still investigating the inside of the bar.

The street, sidewalk and patio were packed. All the great freaks, musicians, artists, lots of beautiful girls (Ram would have liked that) and S.A. characters, young and old, that you saw there on any given night was there.

The shrine covered the whole front of the building, there were photos, paintings, sunglasses, liquor, flowers, candles, messages, art, jewelry incense, cigars, beer and more. Some bands played and it ended at midnight with a prayer for Ram. I saw a lot of people that I haven't seen in years.

Saturday night.

Fundraiser for Doug and Denise. Another great celebration of the life of Ram. More great music, people and tribute. Doug needs blood (0+).

These were two nights at TacoLand that I wouldn't have missed for anything and two nights that I wish didn't have to be.

Last Night at Tacoland June 26, 2005

Last Night at Tacoland, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

For many, myself included, last night was truly my last night at Taco Land.

No Ram. No Taco Land.

I think Gov. Perry put it best: "Adios Mofo"

06/27/2005 Report

Taco Land and slain owner get mournful goodbye

Web Posted: 06/27/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Karisa King
Express-News Staff Writer

Grieving musicians and patrons loyal to the legendary San Antonio bar Taco Land gathered Sunday night for a concert tribute to the club's slain owner, Ramiro "Ram" Ayala, and bid farewell to one of the longest standing underground music venues in Texas.

The epic history of the club, which started in 1969 and came to represent a segment of San Antonio culture in its rawest form, abruptly ended early Friday when Ayala was shot to death during what police say was an apparent robbery attempt. Now, those closest to Ayala say the bar will close for good.

"Now that Ram is passed and gone, there is no more Taco Land," said Robert Tatum, a close friend of Ayala's who helped organize the show. "It's over. None of us are even thinking twice about continuing to run it."

A long lineup of bands, most of them Taco Land standards, played into the night on the club's cracked front patio, just beyond the locked front door at the corner of Grayson and Elmira streets. It was both a mournful homage and a rowdy bash that held true to the irreverent approach Ayala took to running the club.

At dusk, Taco Land regulars swilled beer from their own coolers, shared barbecue and danced on tables to songs from Yoshimoto. Several other bands were expected to play, including the Sons of Hercules, Pit Bull Daycare, Boxcar Satan, Los Mescaleros, the Swindles, the Alcoholic Helltones, and Los #3 Dinners.

Donations raised at the door will go to help the two surviving employees, bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger, 41, and doorman Douglas Morgan, 53, who were shot alongside Ayala and remain at University Hospital in stable condition.

After an outpouring of grief and condolences, Ayala's family recognized the need for a collective farewell and agreed to host the fundraiser.

"They just wanted to give the public one last night," said Roland Fuentes, a former Taco Land employee who helped to organize the show.

Ayala opened Taco Land in 1965, selling tacos and enchilada plates to workers from soda bottling plants that once operated nearby. After the plants shut down, he turned the business into a bar in 1969.

Since then, an eclectic parade of obscure bands from around the country has performed at the low-frills bar. They included the Dead Milkmen, GWAR, the Poster Children, the Fleshtones and Yo La Tengo.

Over the years, the place held onto its blue-collar roots, but evolved into a unique cultural force that sometimes made for a weird juxtaposition of people ˜ well-groomed college students in the same mash pit with middle-aged rockers and silver-studded punks.

Band members and customers cherished the bar for its gritty authenticity and an atmosphere that remained free of the sneering pretension of other alternative venues.

Police on Sunday continued the hunt for two Hispanic men in their early 20s who sped away from the shooting in a silver, two-door sports car.

Police spokesman Joe Rios said no arrests have been made Sunday and detectives continued speaking with witnesses.

"We're still investigating, trying to figure out who the people in the club before the shooting were," Rios said.

A Taco Land bartender who was not there at the time of the shooting stood off to one side, leaning against the car and looking devastated. Jay Bermea, who lives in the neighborhood, does not feel lucky that the shooter didn't get him, too.

"I wish they had," he said grimly.

Bermea had worked for Ram for about three years.

"He was just a tough old Billy goat. Hard-headed. Stubborn," he said.

"But he was a good man. A good father to everybody," Bermea said.

Some Taco Land regulars already had been preparing for the day Ram wouldn't be there, especially after the bar owner had heart problems some time ago.

"Most of us were already thinking that something so good couldn't be so good," said Timothy Phillips, who had been coming to the bar nearly a decade.

"Good things come to an end. I felt it coming. I really did."

Express News Staff Writers Vincent T. Davis, Sheila Hotchkin and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Zen Master

True Stories From Taco Land

by el Bart c/s

Place: Tacoland
When: Late March Early April, 2005
Who's Playing: Los #3 Dinners
Ram Factor: Not In The House of Ram

This happened a few months ago, March or April, 2005. I didn't witness the incident, but my buddy Frank told me about it. We, los #3 Dinners, were playing Tacoland, having a good time playing for Ram and his friends. This one chick was too drunk (not a problem with Ram), but out of control and acting like, well, a pussy (a big problem with Ram). She received a few warnings about her behavior, yet she persisted to fuck up.

Let me digress for a moment. Ram had a sixth sense about drunks. He knew when they were 30 seconds from exploding into a difficult to control monster. He was skilled at intervening at the exact moment when the drunk had reached that delicate balance between being a happy Tacoland drunk and an out of control pussy. The point where the drunk was most vulnerable and could be thrown out on their ass with minimal effort, just before a critical mass of drunkeness was reached and the situation would become expotentially more difficult to control. It was a Zen Master-like ability to know when just one utterance of "GET THE FUCK OUT OUTA HERE!" would communicate directly with the drunk's last functioning brain cell and defuse the situation. If you ever saw it in action, you were awestruck . . . that's if you weren't too drunk to notice.

Anyway, this drunk chick had hit that point and she was being evicted from the House of Ram. She pleaded for mercy. "Ram, I love you! Don't throw me out! I'll give you a blow job, ANYTHING, if I can stay."

Ram's perfect response was, "I'd rather have a blow job from your boyfriend. Now, GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!

No Arrests Made In Taco Land Slaying

June 26th, 2005
San Antonio Express-News

Two Taco Land employees injured in a shooting that killed the North Side bar's owner remained at University Hospital on Saturday afternoon.

Bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger, 41, was in serious but stable condition; doorman Douglas Morgan, 53, was upgraded from critical to stable condition.

Police, meanwhile, hadn't made any arrests Saturday in the killing of 72-year-old Ramiro "Ram" Ayala in an apparent robbery early Friday.

Witnesses told police a man who had been drinking beer and shooting pool at the nearly empty bar shot Ayala in the gut at about 1:30 a.m. The shooter left the bar with another man, and they drove off in a silver sports car.

Police don't know much about the pair, but patrons said the shooter had identified himself as "Rick" while playing pool.

Police speculated that the motive for the shooting might have been a robbery because the cash register was knocked over and there were a few dollar bills on the floor.


Headshot, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

We all handle bad news in our own special way... the headline reads: "This is Ram's Slayer"

Ram Wall Painting

Ram Wall Painting, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

This original stencilled image was created by Mike "Mig" Kokinda (I don't know from who's photo it was adapted), and the artist pictured here painting the mural is Joe Ramirez (known in Taco Land circles as "Joe Who"). This was taken Saturday evening, June 25, 2005

Ram Shrine

Ram Shrine, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Just a small sample of the love.

Steele Reserve

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

Steele Reserve Fucking Tacoland.

It was always like that. Sometimes it was homeless 50-year old hookers telling you their sob stories about their gay children getting AIDS from fucking each other, other times it was sleazy sonofabitches trying to pass off Tylenols as Vicodin and getting pissed when you told them to shove it up their asshole.

Other times, it was making your way through a minefield of used points and shooting up in a house across 281 with a rig you had to wash out with Listerine because the resident junkie didn’t have any bleach. Yet other times it was hearing draft stories from guys who came back from Vietnam completely different- 30 years before. But I will always associate Tacoland with Steele Reserve.

The first time I ever drank Steele Reserve I was trying to drink off the effects of some illegal medication I took in Las Vegas. I had completely forgotten about that stuff- actually I think it used to be illegal in Texas because it had something like 8% alcohol. Nevertheless, you could get a 24 oz. can for something like $1.59 at the crackhead convenience store on 281.

Steele Reserve was the beer of choice at Tacoland, even though Ram didn’t sell it. Once he came out and chased away some homeless folks with a broom. The impression I was left with was that they were bringing in their own Steele Reserve instead of buying his $1.50 longnecks. I don’t know why I have that impression - maybe he said something about it, maybe that’s all I could figure out from what I saw. Within minutes, a few were back on the patio drinking Steele Reserve.

Thats Tacoland.

Bill Who?

True Stories From Tacoland

From The Low Budgets' 2004 Southern Tour Diary

By Joe:

Place: Tacoland
When: May 4th, 2004
Who's Playing: Rice & Beans + some other band
Who's Not Playing: The Low Budgets
Ram Factor: That's Taco Land

According to Joe:

There was a flyer posted to the door of Tacoland about the show tonight. Rice & Beans were playing along with another band. We were not listed. I got a very bad feeling in my stomach. Apparently there was some misunderstaning in the booking of the show. I had communicated via e-mail and phone messages (left messages on machine) with a person (named Bill) who did not actually book the Tacoland. I got the guy's e-mail address from a post on the Dead Milkmen site.

Chris got some money from the band fund and got himself a room in a nearby motel. He told us we could do whatever we wanted. Some folks in a band who were rehearsing next door to Tacoland told us that Ram, the owner, usually did not open up the place until 9. They suggested we drive downtown and walk around, which is what we did. We saw the Alamo. (Brian told us the story of Ozzy Osbourne pissing on the side of it in his wife's dress, but we did not see any plaques to commemorate this historic event.)   

It did not take long for us to be bored so we drove back to Tacoland and it was open. We played a couple games of pool. I asked around for someone named Bill but no one by that name was there. Even worse, no one knew anyone named Bill. Do you mean Phil? No, Bill. Eventually a band showed up to load up their gear. We told them our story and they asked Ram, the owner, if anyone booked the Low Budgets. No! At this point Ram got upset. Bands in the past have tried to weasel their way onto shows in this manner and he wasn't having it. He told us that he is the only person who books Tacoland and he only books on weekends. The weeknight shows, like this one, are booked by the bands themselves by signing a schedule in a notebook. The only way an out-of-town band to have a show on a weeknight is if a local band signs them up, and we were not signed up. So much for my contact named Bill!

I felt really stupid and went into the van to finish my work for the day. When I was done my work I went back into Tacoland. Steve bought be a beer. They were talking to Ram who was tending the bar. Everything was straightened out - we could play the show. They all decided that a Dead Milkmen fan had played a practical joke on me, but the other bands would let us share the bill. It was alright with Ram. The Milkmen played Tacoland back in 1986 (Ram remembered, and showed me a DM sticker that was on the fridge behind the bar). We wrote a song about it which Ram said a lot of other bands mention when they come to play.

Still, we did not play. Chris was not in the mood. I had a good time anyway hanging out with the locals and getting drunk on cheap Lone Star beer. Tacoland is still the coolest bar in the world!

After the Rice and Beans last set (or Jason's last solo set) we drove to the apartment of one of the locals and watched a Ween video - he fed us some good Korean food while his roomates "boozed us up and got us high" then I passed out on a couch.

6/26/2005 Update

S.A. Mourns the Passing of Legendary Taco Land Owner

Posted By: Mandi Bishop

Friends, family, and music fans are mourning the death of a San Antonio icon. Ramiro “Ram” Ayala ran Taco Land, a bar known for helping develop and showcase countless musicians. He was shot to death Thursday night during a robbery.

“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 it's unusual owner. If you listen to San Antonio music, you know about the small bar with character on W. Grayson Street just north of downtown. Patrons knew Ayala, 72, 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.

Hundreds gathered at Taco Land Friday night to memorialize the San Antonio music institution.

“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.”

Police describe the suspects as short Latin men in their 20'S; one skinny and the other a bit bulkier. They fled in a silver sports car.

Without Ram “Tacoland is over,” said Fuentes. Ram's funeral is set for early next week

Saturday, June 25, 2005

An American-Statesman Report

Taco Land owner shot to death

San Antonio venue was haven for up-and-coming bands from Austin and elsewhere.

By Michael Corcoran
Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ram Ayala, always wearing sunglasses in his dark nightclub, was a legend among not only Austin and San Antonio musicians, but also indie rock touring acts such as Yo La Tengo and L7, who made sure to stop in at his gloriously seedy biker bar whenever they passed through San Antonio.

Philadelphia's Dead Milkmen even recorded a song about their unscheduled 1986 appearance at the 150-capacity cinder block venue: "I wish my band would always play; Tacoland, I want to stay."

Ramiro Albert Ayala, 72, was fatally shot in the torso at Taco Land at 103 W. Grayson St. at 1:21 a.m. Friday, according to the San Antonio Police Department. Police said two people fled with money taken from the cash register after shooting two others at the bar — a 41-year-old woman shot in the abdomen and a 53-year-old man shot in the side.

Both were taken to University Hospital and are in critical condition, according to police, and no suspects had been arrested as of Friday evening.

"Simple words cannot properly express the sadness and disgust I'm feeling," former Hickoids singer Jeff Smith wrote in an e-mail early Friday morning that launched an Internet wildfire of similar reactions. Smith, who lives in San Antonio, described the injured victims as the club's bouncer and bartender.

"I never even saw a fight at Taco Land," said Eric Makowski, whose early '90s band the Showoffs regularly played at the club, which opened as a taco stand in 1965 but hasn't served food in decades. "The place looked pretty scary, but everyone was so nice."

The crowd was a reflection of the club's owner, who greeted everyone with a gruff expletive, yet was known for his generosity toward up-and-coming bands.

"One time we were sitting around talking about how broke and hungry we were, and a couple bags of tacos and burritos magically appeared at our table," recalled Makowski, currently a member of Bloody Tears.

Ayala liked to send bands home with a case of beer at the end of the night, especially if nobody showed up to see them. But he was more notorious for an unmarked bottle of hooch he carried around. The bottle was filled with liquor left over by customers who had brought their own to the beer and wine joint. Bikers would often prove their mettle by taking swigs from the bottle that mixed several types of liquor.

"If Ram liked the band, he'd make them each drink a shot of that stuff," Makowski said. "It tasted awful, but it felt like a honor."

Tears In Our Eyes

True Stories From Tacoland

Railrod Jerk Tour Journal Excerpt

by Marcellus Hall

Place: Tacoland
When: Late April, 1993
Who's Playing: Railroad Jerk + Splinter + Boxcar Satan
Ram Factor: Shit Happens

We woke the next day at 3 pm and went with Brent of the Cherubs to meet Tanya and Debbie. We all ate at a Mexican restaurant and then got on the road to San Antonio. It was an exciting 1 1/2 hour drive what with the van so crowded and all of us talking at the same time. We listened to the Fall's Grotesque album and Can.

We finally arrived at Tacoland, the club in San Antonio. A small place that we had heard many good things about. Outside stood the members of the opening bands: Splinter and Boxcar Satan. We introduced ourselves and they told us the bad news: Tacoland is locked and no one knows where the owner is. They assured us that it was some sort of emergency as this was not the usual custom. We bought beer and stood around. The night was clear and warm. Some fans showed up, but no owner. It began to look bleak. Then, as it became apparent that there would not be a show, the crowd took up a small collection and handed us $50 for gas. This gesture had us overwhelmed with gratitude and we drove away with tears in our eyes (and $50 in our pockets).

Viva Taco Land!

Viva Tacoland!, originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

If you've ever been to, played at or had the honor of being served an ice cold beer by Ram at Taco Land then you've got a story to tell - please share it by clicking the comment button and we'll post it here and on the official site coming at the end of July, 2005. Thanks and Viva Ram!

Game Over: RAM MVP

Owner of Famed Taco Land Is Slain

By John Tedesco, Jim Beal and Mary Moreno
Express-News Staff Writers
Web Posted: 06/25/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Ramiro "Ram" Ayala, whose iconic bar Taco Land became an institution for underground music for more than three decades, was shot to death early Friday in a possible robbery attempt, police said.

Two employees at the near North Side bar, doorman Douglas Morgan, 53, and bartender Denise "Sunshine" Koger, 41, were injured in the shooting — Morgan critically.

At 72, Ayala was known to patrons as the gruff bartender with a sweet spot, a gray-haired curmudgeon who opened his dive bar to everyone, from upstart bands with no experience to street people.

With his trademark sunglasses and black rocker T-shirts, Ayala was as offbeat as the bands he booked.

"Ram's everybody's dad," Mitch Webb, lead singer of the local country rock band The Swindles. "He adopted all the homeless people in the area and countless musicians."

Bands across the country wanted to play gigs at the squat brick building at Grayson and Elmira streets. The Dead Milkmen named a song after Taco Land, and the bar cropped up in lyrics by local groups such as Los #3 Dinners.

"Without Ram there, it will never, ever, ever be the same," said Los #3 Dinners lead singer Eric Friedland. "That was why you went to Taco Land, because of him."

Witnesses told police two men in their early 20s had been playing pool and drinking beer at Taco Land early Friday, as the city celebrated the San Antonio Spurs' victory over the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Championship.

Robert Flores, a homeless man who did odd jobs at Taco Land, said two bands scheduled to perform had canceled, so few people were lingering in the bar at 1 a.m.

One of the pool players stood out to Flores because he'd never seen him at Taco Land before.

The man was leaning against the jukebox drinking beer shortly before he walked over to the bar and struck up a conversation with Ayala, Flores said.

Flores didn't hear what was said, but he saw the man stick a gun in Ayala's gut and fire a shot. Flores said he ran out of the bar and didn't see what happened next.

"I can't believe this man went off like that," Flores said.

The two men fled in a silver sports car. They were described as short Hispanic men, one with a light build, the other a little heavier. One of them went by the first name "Rick," or that's what they told other patrons.

The slim man wore a red or burgundy polo shirt and blue jeans, had a crew cut, and spoke Spanish and English.

The second man had a white San Antonio Spurs T-shirt, tattoos on both arms, and light or hazel eyes.

Police found a cash register knocked over with a few dollar bills strewn across the floor.

Investigators said they had no leads.

Although the club seemed like a reliable safe haven to regulars, Taco Land had its rough side. Police knew the spot well, and in recent years had responded to an increasing number of emergency calls.

In 2000, Ayala said in an interview he first opened Taco Land in 1965, selling tacos and enchilada plates to workers from soda pop bottling plants that once operated nearby. After the plants shut down, he turned the business into a bar in 1969.

Taco Land became a draw for an eclectic crowd that on any given night had homeless people drinking beer with uppercrust college students.

"He touched people from every walk of life, from kids (in) Alamo Heights, to kids from Trinity to kids from the West Side," said Laura Escamilla-Fouratt, who worked on a documentary about Taco Land in 1999.

"I think that's kind of what everyone liked about Taco Land," she said. "It was interesting for everyone."

If he liked you, Ayala would offer a sip from "baby," the bottle he kept in a paper bag. You were expected to take a swig of what could be good tequila, cheap Scotch or a more ambiguous mix of fiery liquid.

His affection came out in other ways, too.

"Ram would only heckle bands he liked," said Sanford Nowlin, lead singer for the band Boxcar Satan and a business writer for the San Antonio Express-News.

Roland de la Cruz, guitarist with Los Mescaleros, said, "He could be a tough guy but he was a sweet man. When it came to the club, it didn't matter who you are, you could play there."

There are Ram stories Escamilla-Fouratt has never been able to confirm — that he was a projectionist in old movie houses and that he was a Korean War vet — but his work ethic and devotion to his bar always held true.

"He was really, really proud of Taco Land," she said.

Ayala suffered a heart attack in May 2003 and in recent months spent less time behind the bar, instead holding court from a stool beside the pay phone. The phone would ring periodically throughout shows, and Ram would answer it, barking "What?"

"I love the people that come here. All of them," Ayala said in 2000. "I've got good people and bad people that come here, but 99 percent of the people are good."

To pay homage to a man so many considered a patron saint to the music scene, Friday night's gig became a makeshift memorial with bands More Fire from Austin, Los De Verdad from Houston and local bands Valley of the Kings and Total 13. A crowd of about 400 to 500 people had gathered by 9 p.m.

Mark Cruz, Ayala's son, said he knew there was trouble when he saw the club on television after the Spurs coverage.

He rushed to the scene, and then to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he learned his father had been pronounced dead.

Earlier Friday, shocked patrons gathered outside Taco Land and left a shrine of flowers, candelarias and tributes along an outside wall.

Eddie Cruz, Ayala's youngest son, said he didn't know what would happen to the bar. But he hinted that without Ram, there is no Taco Land.

Express News Staff Writers Vianna Davila, Karisa King, Sheila Hotchkin, Hector Saldaña and Michelle Mondo contributed to this report.