They call Ramon Ayala the “King of the Accordion” and the architect of modern Mexican Norteño music. He has won three Grammy Awards, produced 113 albums, appeared in 13 movies and is a multi-millionaire. Yet, Ayala is a humble, simple man who has lived in the little town of Hidalgo, Texas for decades, and always puts family first before anything else.
This past April, Ramon and his wife Linda celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple raised four children, three of them who are a part of Ayala’s renowned band, “Los Bravos Del Norte.” Nearly all of the Ayala clan live on the same street in Hidalgo and every year at Christmas time, Ramon hosts a giant “posada party” with hundreds of gifts given to all the town’s children. Even at 75, the musician has no plans to retire, but is grooming his grandson, Christopher Ayala, to some day walk in his shoes.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a 13 year old kid who tends to be on the shy side. When Christopher gets on stage however, he’s in his own world and shines with confidence. When Ramon Ayala was growing up in the border city of Reynosa, his father gifted him a small accordion at six years of age. It was about the same time frame when Don Ramon presented his grandson with his favorite musical instrument. His instincts were correct, because Christopher relates to music like a duck does to water. This is a young man who also plays the piano and enjoys strumming a guitar. But playing the accordion is almost a daily ritual, jamming with his grandpa, uncles and anybody who drops by the house. Christopher usually tours with “Los Bravos” and stands next to Ayala, just doing his thing.
“We never rehearse (for a show)” notes Ayala, trusting Christopher to pick up the tempo. Then after a couple of songs, Ramon usually shouts out “CHRISTOPHER,” and the crowd goes nuts.
Los Bravos Del Norte continued to hold concerts through the end of 2019 in California, and other locations during 2020 until COVID-19 forced all future gigs to be cancelled. The show at The Forum in Inglewood was the highlight of the tour since Ayala and his band enjoy a huge following in Los Angeles. So Ramon and Christopher flew in early to promote the event, which is how he is carefully guiding the youngster to become accustomed to off stage exposure. Their first stop was a visit on iHeart radio’s “Big Boy In The Neighborhood.” Ayala speaks very little English, but has known the black hip hop host Big Boy for years and knew the interview would be a light and funny experience for his grandson.
Big Boy…”So how old are you little man?”
Big Boy…”So you’re gonna open the show tonight at The Forum? Are you nervous?
Christopher…”No I don’t get nervous.”
Big Boy…”Well, you’re a handsome little guy, and those (hazel) eyes. I bet you’ve got a lot of girl friends,”
Christopher…(thinking) “Well, no.”
Big Boy…”Ah, I saw you hesitate”
Ramon…”Si, tiene como diez,” laughing and holding up 10 fingers,
Big Boy…”See, I knew it. So you’re gonna need money. Ask your grandpa if you can have a 100 dollars. Go ahead, ask him.”
Christopher…(leans over and whispers to Ramon in Spanish.
Ramon…”What? Oh si, you can have five. Five hundred dollar.”
After returning to Hidalgo, the band did a few more shows and then traveled to Houston for Go Tejano Day and Rodeo back on March 9th. It was the first time Los Bravos Del Norte had headlined the event in six years, and over 74,000 fans were in attendance. Christopher was there, of course, and brought down the house. His cousin Linda, 17, also performed some vocals in a true family affair.
The virus has hit Hidalgo and all the Texas border cities particularly hard, including the Ayala clan. Ramon’s brother Jose Luis, the band’s drummer, has been in the hospital for over a month and is hooked up to a respirator. And the family’s longtime manager Jay Hernandez was also hospitalized with the virus. Ramon, thankfully, has remained healthy. He has spent the last few months relaxing at home and gauging the success of his “Tragos Amargos” tequila brand, available in three different varieties. When asked again about any retirement plans on stage, Ayala was frank with his answer.
“I was born to play music and perform,” he admits. “so when I can’t do it anymore, I’ll just say good night.”
Clearly though, Ramon takes great pride in watching his grandson mature on stage, and it obviously inspires him. For Christopher, also a talented baseball player, the summer has been boring because the season was called off. But he remains addicted to his music and is constantly recording new material. In fact, Christopher is working on his first album, produced by Hernandez, which is a combined effort with his cousin Linda and other guest artists. The music company Cantabella makes custom accordions for him. The youngster’s table is set.
For now, the music business and live performances are on hold, although it won’t be that way forever. Los Bravos Del Norte will play again. Ramon Ayala will be center stage with his grandson at his side. Whatever Christopher decides for his future will be up to him, but he has a great head start.
-For further information on Ramon and Christopher, the band and related topics, please contact Jay Hernandez…email firstname.lastname@example.org.