Sammie Florencio “Sammy ‘Jay’” Jaramillo, 79, of Cumby, Texas died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family, on September 18, 2020. He was born on October 30, 1940 in York, Texas, the son of Savino Jaramillo and Aurora Martinez. A memorial service for Sammy will be held on Saturday, October 3, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. at Commerce Funeral Home, with Reverend C.J. Duffy officiating.
Sammy was three years old when his parents moved the Jaramillo brood to San Antonio and they made their home there. His father played accordion and his mother sang at home. Sammy learned to play one tune on his father’s accordion. However, he chose to learn to pick the guitar at just four years old. When Sammy was six, he would grab his shoeshine box and walk up the street, shining shoes and singing in restaurants along the way. Music was in his blood. At seven, Sammy started singing with Brownie and the Ranch Hands Band at The Circle B Club. There, people would start hollering when they heard him because he was little, but loud! In 1949, when Sammy was eight, he and a child prodigy in country music named Doug Sahm were the youngest musicians in the San Antonio Musician’s Union. They would sneak up to the side of black San Antonio blues clubs. Doug would say, “That’s what I want to do, sing and play rhythm and blues!” However, it was country and western tunes, like “Your Cheating Heart” that Sammy cut his teeth on. In 1955, after a falling out between some band members, the Conjunto Mexico needed a bass player, so that is when Sammy really showed his musical prowess by switching from guitar to bass. A turning point in the conjunto’s repertoire and popularity came when they covered “Tutti Frutti”, Little Richard’s first national hit and Sammy’s first rock’n’roll recording. Conjunto Alegre de San Antonio recorded their version of “Tutti Frutti” in 1956, featuring Sammy on lead vocals and bass. Now hooked on rock’n’roll, Sammy formed Little Sammy and the Rock’n’Rollers. Asked if he put ‘Little’ in front of his name because there were so many singers known as Little Richard, etc., Sammy was quick to answer, “I was called ‘Little’ because of my short stature. I was 5 feet 4 inches tall!” Now comes the confusing part. After Sammy formed the Rock’n’Rollers, he did not quit the conjunto. Instead he was now juggling two music genres. Through a series of events, Little Sammy and the Rock’n’Rollers became the house band at The Tiffany Lounge in San Antonio. This was a classy club that boasted a 50-foot bar. As a result, one of the band’s traits was that they all wore suits or tuxedos, which Sammy had tailor made for each member. He would take a little of everybody’s weekly check to pay for them. They were doing very well! The band played six nights a week and did a matinee that was packed with servicemen each Sunday. Sammy was very animated. He moved around and hollered a lot. They called him, “The little man with a big voice.” A year into their gig, Sammy changed the band’s name to Sammy Jay and the Tiffaniers. Now, instead of Sammy sneaking into clubs or peeking into windows, teenagers would sneak into the Tiffany Lounge to hear Sammy Jay and the Tiffaniers! My how the tables have turned! Cleto Escobedo stated that Sammy Jay was one of the top bass players in San Antonio. He can still see Sammy at the Tiffany. Even though they called him Little Sammy, he was a giant to Cleto. 1963 was a transformative year for Little Sammy Jay. That was the year he met a beautiful Italian young lady named Vickie. On January 17, 1966, Sammy and Vickie exchanged wedding vows! But, the band never slowed down. By 1967, Sammy’s band was backing up major artists such as Little Richard at the Dome Shadows, one of Houston’s most famous night clubs during the 1960’s. As a performer, Sammy was a consummate showman and it was not unusual for him to get up on the piano, keep on singing, then leap up from the piano, do a flip in mid air and land on the dance floor as the thin, small-framed , agile performer continued to sing! Fast forward to 1979, when Vickie saw an image of Jesus Christ walking across the water to their boat at Lake Texoma. She told Sammy of her vision and that she wanted them to go to church the next day. She was baptized that same Sunday! Three months later, Sammy gave his life to Christ. Eventually, he became the Praise and Worship leader, an elder, an associate pastor and was eventually selected to be a co-pastor of the church. Now, “I don’t do anything unless I go to God first,” Sammy explains. In the following years, Sammy became a full-time minister. He and his wife, Vickie, served as the Praise and Worship leaders at Alpha Christian Church in Garland, Texas for over 10 years. Sammy would play the bass in the worship band as he and Vickie led worship. They enjoyed a very fulfilling ministry together.
Sammy is survived by his children, Deborah Dugger and husband, Mark, Michael Jaramillo and wife, Amber, Sammy Jaramillo and wife, Michelle, Joey Jaramillo and wife, Leona, Chet Wilson and wife, Rebecca, former son-in-law, Dennis Spivey and wife, Donna; grandchildren, Misty Lowrance and husband, Michael, Russell Singleton and wife, Eva, Megan Spivey, Justin Dugger, Jonathan Shuford and wife, Sydney Marlar, Montana Wilson, Dakota Wilson and wife, Leslie, Victoria Jaramillo; great grandchildren, Kaylee Lowrance, Casey Lowrance, Kristan Shuford, and Kynlee Shuford; sisters, Connie Baeza, Rosie Cruz and Minnie Smith.
Sammy was preceded in death by his parents, Savino and Aurora Jaramillo, his wife of 50 years, Vickie Lissiak Jaramillo; granddaughter, Kristan Dugger; siblings, Jannie Ramirez, Sabino Jaramillo, Hope Urest, Ovillavo Jaramillo and Joe Jaramillo.
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