New Mexico music legend Al Hurricane dies at 81

Al Hurricane, known as the “Godfather of New Mexico music” for developing a distinct sound bridging the state’s unique Hispanic traditions with country and rock, died Sunday.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico and the music world are mourning the loss of legendary musician Al Hurricane.

The 81-year-old died Sunday night after a long battle with cancer. Hurricane’s reach extended well beyond his home state. He even showcased the music he loved on the other side of the world.

Born in 1936, Albert Nelson Sanchez was destined for stardom. He learned guitar at an early age from his parents, and it became one of many instruments he would master and use in his legendary career.

Starting out in northern New Mexico, the Sanchez family settled in Albuquerque in the late 1940s. From there, the musician began performing Latin standards for tips in Old Town.

It was playing rock ‘n’ roll that boosted him into popularity, along with taking on a stage name — Al Hurricane. Later, it was a return to his Spanish roots and music that garnered him a Gold album for his composition, “Sentimiento.”

It was that devotion to his music that nearly cost him his life in a serious car accident on the way to a performance in Denver, November 1969. As a result, Hurricane lost his right eye, but in its place came his signature eye patch.

From the establishment of Hurricane Enterprises, a record and promotions company that has brought legends to New Mexico like Elvis; or the label that produced dozens of Hurricane’s own albums and launched the successful careers of other artists; Hurricane’s compositions, style and helping hand made the music what it is today.

“We call him the “padriño,” the godfather of Nuevo Mexicano music. His roots are with the “corrido,” his roots are in traditional Nuevo Mexicano music,” distinguished UNM professor Enrique Lamadrid said.

Hurricane embarked on a farewell tour in his final years. It was a chance for him and his son, Al Hurricane Jr., to thank the legions of fans for decades of love and support.

“I’m happy I’m here. I’m happy that I’ve got whatever life God gives me and I want to spend it – you know, with my family and playing music,” Hurricane said.

Prior to becoming a full-time musician, Hurricane had a distinguished career as a recruiter in the Air National Guard.

Hurricane, who was 81, leaves behind seven children. Funeral arrangements are still pending.

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Response to to death of Al Hurricane

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