Thursday, June 30, 2005

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.

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