Al Hurricane, 'Godfather of New Mexico music,' dies at 81

Colton Shone, Kassandra Nelson and The Associated Press
October 23, 2017 07:48 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - 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, has died. His son, Al Hurricane, Jr., told The Associated Press that his father died Sunday from complications related to prostate cancer.


He was 81.

Born Alberto Nelson Sanchez on July 10, 1936, in the tiny village of Dixon, New Mexico, he was raised for a time in Ojo Sarco before moving Arizona and later Albuquerque. He learned to play the guitar thanks to his mother and his father, a miner.

Hurricane began his music career by singing in Albuquerque Old Town restaurants before forming his own band, Al Hurricane & the Night Rockers, in 1962.

He later recorded more than 30 albums.


Al Hurricane will always be known as a New Mexico icon. His music is credited for defining our culture, his songs capable of transporting listeners.

“I remember sitting at a café and I heard one of his songs on a jukebox,” KANW General Manager Michael Brasher said. “It was a 45, and I thought, ‘That is absolutely wonderful.’ It’s tremendous music.”

Brasher has worked in radio for more than five decades, a span of time during which he got to know Hurricane well.

“Through this time we came to have deep respect for his abilities as a musician and also he was just truly a wonderful person, in addition to being a fine artist,” Brasher said.

Now, New Mexicans of all ages are feeling the loss of their beloved musician, whether it’s those who grew up listening to him, or who are being introduced for the first time.

“The telephone calls of people expressing their sympathies to the radio station have been incredible,” Brasher said.

Fans stopped by KANW on Monday to write letters of condolences to Hurricane’s family. The card will be in their lobby all week for people to sign. While the New Mexico music icon is gone, he’s still so close to many, living on through his music and the culture he helped shape.

“I think that’s one of his legacies is that the Sanchez family and Al have been very important in music and years to come,” Brasher said. “People will remember what they did and will continue that tradition of great New Mexico music.”


“I feel honored, blessed to be a part of his life,” Al Hurricane Jr. said. “Just to be a part of it.”

Al Hurricane’s son said his father could sense the end was coming about a week ago and wanted to get the family together one last time.

“He was very at peace with himself,” Al Hurricane Jr. said. “He told everybody that, ‘It was time for me to go. I feel it coming. I’m real tired; I just want to rest.’”

Al Hurricane Jr. said even with that warning, nothing could prepare him to lose his father.

“I said, ‘Dad, I don’t know how I’ll be able to continue without you here.’ I’d been with him for 45, 46 years. We’ve been at each other’s side. I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue this.’ He said, ‘I need you to continue to do what I taught you to do,’” Al Hurricane Jr. said.

He said his father’s wish was to be cremated, as well as for everyone to remember him like most remember him: On the stage, singing his heart out.

The family says they are working on a public service for the music legend, the details of which are still to be announced.


Colton Shone, Kassandra Nelson and The Associated Press

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Accelerated Mobile Page by Relay Media.
See standard version.