Al Hurricane performing at the San Felipe De Neri in 2014. Photo by Mario J. Lucero, distributed through Wikimedia.org
Al Hurricane, “The Godfather Of New Mexico Music” Dies At 81
By ROBERT NARANJO
Albuquerque – Alberto Sanchez, better known to New Mexicans as ”Al Hurricane,” died Sun., Oct. 22nd, in Albuquerque after a battle with prostate cancer
Hurricane, a legend in his own time, known as “The Godfather of New Mexico Music,” had a long and successful career in music and recorded a whopping 30 albums and had his own label, “Al Hurricane Records” according to Richard Garcia, of KDCE radio who spoke about Hurricane’s career live on the air at about 1 p.m. on Mon., Oct. 23rd. Hurricane also recorded with “Atlantis Records,” “EMI Capitol Records” before starting up his own label. Al Hurricane Records recorded albums for his brothers “Tiny Morrie” and “Baby Gaby” in addition to his son, Al Jr.
KDCE radio personality, “Mariachi Mike,” told the KDCDE radio audience that Hurricane got his nickname that remained with him for a lifetime from his mother. As a young boy, Hurricane moved about the Sanchez home getting into everything and knocking things over causing his mom to declare, “You are like a hurricane!” The name stuck with him for the rest of his life according to Mariachi Mike.
Hurricane lived up to his name in his long musical career. He played with some pretty big names like Chuck Berry, Freddy Fender, and many, many other national stars.
Garcia also said that Hurricane was known for his signature black eye patch. He explained that Hurricane was in an automobile accident returning from playing in Colorado and injured his eye and used the eye patch after that.
According to Mariachi Mike, Hurricane began his singing career as a “singing waiter” at Old Town Albuquerque La Casita restaurant and also played on the Plaza for tips. He later formed a band called “Al Hurricane and the Night Rockers” and played high school gigs and other events.
Garcia saw him perform in the late 50’s at St. Michael’s High School. Later, he teamed up with his brothers Tiny Morrie and Baby Gaby to form a very successful trio. Later, his own son, Al Jr. became the glue taking care of the business end of things and preparing for concerts and performances.
Al Hurricane’s label recorded albums for his brothers “Tiny Morrie” and “Baby Gaby” as well as his son, Al. Jr. Career. Tiny Morrie got a big hit in Mexico, “No Hay Amor” according to Garcia. Hurricane’s “Sentimiento Que Yo Traigo” was written by Hurricane and became a New Mexico favorite.
Mariachi Mike said that Hurricane used to appear regularly on the “Val de la O” show which aired on an Albuquerque TV station and endeared him to New Mexicans with his live performances on De La O’s show in the 1970’s. He was one of the favorites on that show according to Mariachi Mike. “He loved the public and the public loved him,” he added.
In his adopted city, he was honored recently when the City of Albuquerque named the stage at Civic Plaza, the ”Al Hurricane Pavilion” in his honor for his contribution to the city through his New Mexico music.
However, Hurricane was not originally from Albuquerque. Hurricane was born Alberto Sanchez in Dixon, NM to Jose Margarito and Benny Sanchez and raised in Chamisal according to Garcia. His father moved the family to Albuquerque when Al was a young boy.
Several months ago, Hurricane and Al. Jr. played to large crowds on his “Farewell Tour.” According to concert goers, it was an emotional concert at times for Hurricane and Al Jr.and, indeed, the audience.
“I think he touched just about every musician here in northern New Mexico” Mariachi Mike said about Hurricane during the two hour tribute to him. Rudy Sisneros, a drummer with the band, “Encanto,” told the valleydailypost.com that Hurricane was influential to area bands, especially in the use of a horn section, which gave his band unique sound. Sisneros said that popular area bands, specifically ”The Blue Ventures de Louis Sanchez” took a page out of the Al Hurricane New Mexico music book, and utilized a horn section that gave the Blue Ventures a sound immediately recognizable within the first few notes of most of their songs.
Garcia said that “the music of Al Hurricane will be with us for a long, long, time. It’s not going to go away anytime soon.”