Thursday, 24 September 2009 18:44

Ruben Ramos tribute: 'powerful, haunting,'


Amazing, exciting, powerful, touching, sad, funny and ultimately haunting.

The Ruben Ramos Grammy tribute at the Cadillac Bar Thursday night was this and much more.

Details on the MTV Unplugged-style event: Ruben Ramos on Grammy win: 'fantastic feeling, grateful'

Amazing because of the incredible stories the Ramos family shared of going against the odds in poverty in rural Texas.


Touching, because of their struggle is something that all minorities

 can relate to..


Sad, because in their story, often times one's fate could sometimes be dictated by economic and political barriers


Funny, because sometimes even in hardship and pain, one can still find joy and laughter.


Haunting, because we were reminded that the quest to follow a dream in America, often comes at a steep price. There are sacrifices, struggles, pain and tears that are never forgotten.


Organizer Michael Arellano told the crowd the tribute was to recognize Ramos' Grammy achievement, perhaps "the most prestigious and coveted award in the music industry."


Ruben, brothers Joe, Alfonso and sister Inez shared personal memories Thursday.


The 45-minute acoustic session turned into an hour-plus revelation.

That was so much precious detail coming off the stage I could not keep up with it.


Ramos recalled his early childhood in Sugarland, the tiny rural community outside Houston as the family toiled in the fields as migrant workers.


Ramos grew up in a Mexican-American musical family that carried the tradition of Mexican boleros, cumbias and polkas. Yet, as a teenager in the mid- 1950s, Ramos developed an affinity for rock and pop .


"My first influences included Little Richard, Ray Charles, Fats Domino," he told the crowd.


Early on, Ramos had to compete against his own brothers for a chance to make it on his own.

He started as a teenager playing drums in older brother Alfonso's big band. He eventually sang lead

and in the late '60s broke away from Alfonso, to start his own band in Austin.


Ramos and Alfonso were also influenced by R&B, soul, jazz and particularly groups from the big band era.


Of the dozen-plus songs the Ramoses played Thursday, highlights included "Cruz de Madera," "Los Laureles,"  the always striking "Silencio del La Noche" and the humble gospel tune "Un dia a La Vez."


"The first song that I sang on stage, was Fats Domino's 'BlueBerry Hill'," Ramos said. 'It was simple and easy to learn, and I could sing it while playing the drums."


Ramos had the crowd in stitches when, ironically, he described having to relearn Spanish when he started singing Mexican classics.


"There were songs I murdered because I didn't' know what the words meant and didn't know how to pronounce them," he said. "I remember singing 'La del Monio Colorado,' and saying 'la demonio colorado'."


Like Little Joe, Ruben Ramos is one of the towering giants in Tejano, who still casts a long influential shadow.


The Ramoses described growing up in a humble environment, their early influences and their dreams. They were trying to find their own place in the sun, in a country with so much promise and opportunity amid so many economic, political and class obstacles.


Despite the tough times, Ramos kept a philosphical outlook.


"Looking back I think it has been a good road," he said. "I think you have to experience some kind of bad, otherwise you would not know to appreciate the good times.


"We want to thank all the fans. Without them, without their support, we would be nothing," Ramos said.


The audience of some 85 fans inside the packed back room were mesmerized at the musical beauty and compelling stories coming off the stage Thursday.


It was too much to capture in words.


The old, classic songs engaged the spirit, while the stories had a powerful grip.


The Ramoses chased the dreams, the dreams that every generation has pursued since the dawn of time.


Along the way, they inspired others.

The facts of their struggles, their rise and eventual arrival is all well documented in my 1999 book "The Billboard Guide to Tejano and regional Mexican Music," on Billboard Books.

Anyway, Thursday night, they reminded us that worthwhile success never comes easy, and that the price in blood, sweat and tears only elevates the dream when it does arrive.


Check these Photos.

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