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Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight: Ruben Ramos

Ruben Ramos, wearing sunglasses and an all black suit with a magenta pocket square, sings passionately into the microphone he's holding in his right hand.
Sheryl Wong
Ruben Ramos performs in the Laboratorio concert on Feb. 27, 2022, at Stateside at The Paramount in Austin.

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Grammy Award-winning artist Ruben Ramos, known to many as "El Gato Negro," was not born in Austin, but his work over the last seven decades has earned him a sculpture in the city among other greats like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

To say that his family was a musical one feels like a bit of an understatement. His father played the fiddle and his mother would bust out her guitar at family gatherings. His mother’s 10 brothers grew up playing together and, upon returning from World War II, the brothers reunited again to form the band Justin Perez and His Ex G.I.’s.

It was only a matter of time before Ramos and his five siblings would count themselves among that musical lineage, filling in on vocals and adding to the repertoire of musical instruments.

That training during their youth allowed Ramos and his brother Alfonso to cut their teeth and earn their stripes in the music business. It wasn’t long before his sibling was setting out on his own endeavor with the formation of the outfit Alfonso Ramos y Su Orquesta, in which Ruben Ramos would play drums and occasionally sing songs in both Spanish and English.

Soon, another of his brothers decided it was time to start a band of his own and Ramos decided to join him and be the face and voice of the group. With that, the band The Mexican Revolution was brought into the world.

The band’s name came amid the emergence of Chicano empowerment movements in the '70s and Ramos has said they hoped the moniker would further embolden the many Chicanos across the state and the country.

After a few years, the name of the group was altered to The Texas Revolution in an attempt to appeal to both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences, and by this time Ramos was becoming a star in his own right.

His work with Los Super Seven, a group featuring Freddy Fender, Joe Ely and Flaco Jimenez among many others, earned Ramos a Grammy Award in 1999. He added another Grammy to his collection in 2009, this time with The Mexican Revolution, after they had once again switched up their name.

Between the musical output produced with his family, his own band and various other collaborations, it’s almost impossible to put a firm number on just how many albums Ramos has been a part of over the years. Many of the earliest family recordings can only be found on vinyl records and won’t be popping up on your streaming service of choice.

But if you’re ever out and about on the Hike & Bike Trail near the Mexican American Cultural Center, you'll always be able to find the sculptures depicting Ruben and his brother Alfonso in recognition of their impact on Austin and the Texas music scene.

Jerry Quijano is the local All Things Considered anchor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.
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