Sunday, June 26, 2005

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

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