The Al Hurricane Story – “The Godfather” Of New Mexico Music:

Al Hurricane. Courtesy photo

The Al Hurricane Story – “The Godfather” Of New Mexico Music:

A Lifetime of Keeping Spanish New Mexican Culture Alive Through Music, “¡Quiero que Sepas!”

By Robert A. Naranjo

ESPAÑOLA – Al Hurricane, one can easily argue, through New Mexico music became “a legend in his own time,” and an entire musical family not too far from legendary themselves. Alberto Nelson Sanchez, “Al Hurricane,” is a musician who had the right music at the right time. Indeed, staying at the top in popularity and demand for close to 60 or more years in New Mexico especially but not exclusively.

How did this New Mexico Music singer and musician reach, to use the vernacular, “Rock Star Status” in New Mexico and, arguably the Southwest and beyond? The Valley Daily Post thought that a story about him was timely as he made his way through northern New Mexico on his musical swan song. This may shed some light on Hurricane’s success.

For starters, one can see firsthand just what made this entertainer a musical success, and a New Mexico Living Legend, whose passion for music magnetized audiences everywhere. New Mexico Music fans and Al Hurricane fans have one last chance. On Saturday, Aug. 1,  when he performs in the Española Valley. According to Ohkay Casino, as of July 31 the Al Hurricane and Al Jr. Farewell Show and Dance will be held at the Ohkay Casino Hotel and Conference Center Saturday, Aug. 1 from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and tickets are available at the Ohkay Box Office at 1-877-747-1668, Ext. 5613 for the Al Hurricane and Al Jr. Farewell Show and Dance.

It promises to be vintage Al Hurricane singing all the fan favorites that made him, “The Godfather of New Mexico Music.” He will be performing with Al Hurricane, Jr. who has built his own career with his famous father’s help and support. However, Al Jr. has built and developed his own extensive fan base of support with many popular releases that have been well received, like a recent hit, “Nadie es Eterno,”{Nobody is Eternal.} It could very well be the last time Al Hurricane is seen performing onstage in the Española Valley. Northern New Mexico is experiencing a musical generational transition and the end of an era.

Online sources confirm that Al Hurricane, the oldest of four children, was born Alberto Nelson Sanchez, on July 1O, 1939, to Jose Margarito Sanchez and Bennie L. Sanchez, in Dixon, New Mexico, a small Spanish-speaking village in Rio Arriba County where in generations past, respect and keeping your word was as necessary as anything in life. Al Hurricane started out with a band called “Bandido.” His band played throughout New Mexico and Colorado and later the band was known by his name, “Al Hurricane.” Al Hurricane was in a car accident in the 196O’s coming back from playing in a show or “gig” and injured his eye. He began using the signature eye patch, which became part of the mystique that is Al Hurricane.

Now, about his name, Al Hurricane; how did he become that musical persona?  The story goes that when he was a little boy, he was often “like a hurricane” knocking things off the tables and similar behavior that led his mother, Bennie to calling him a hurricane.

Mrs. Bennie Sanchez loved promoting her oldest son’s music and all the family’s music, too. “She used to come in with cassettes of Al’s music and charmed her way to getting the disc jockey’s to play a new release of Al’s,” remembers Casey Gallegos, longtime general manager, at KDCE AM & FM in Española. “She didn’t take no for an answer was easily Al’s number one fan. You could hear the pride in her voice when she spoke about him and the rest of her family. She really loved promoting Al and his music,” Gallegos added. A Tribute Concert featuring many NM musical artists who each said a few words to honor, “The Godfather” Al Hurricane, was held a few years ago and CD’s were made from show. “Those CDs proved to be very popular,” Gallegos also said.

Gallegos is the president of the New Mexico Hispano Music Awards (NMHMA) and remembers when Al Hurricane would perform at the Awards Show. “People would loved it when he played and he played several times through the years,” said Gallegos. Al Hurricane was given the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the NMHMA, an award that recognizes outstanding and diligent promotion of New Mexico music by an individual. His son, Al Jr. was likewise honored.

The Al Hurricane and Al Jr. Farewell Tour will roll out Sunday morning, Aug. 2 and leaves a legacy that will remain with the good people of the Española Valley and northern New Mexico who are proud to call him a relative, neighbor and a good friend. And, a pretty good “musico,” too!