15 Songs, 47 Minutes


About Al Hurricane

Al Hurricane was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose meld of vintage Mexican traditional music, vintage R&B, early rock & roll, and country & western earned him the iconic status of "the Godfather of New Mexico Music." Hurricane's seven-decade career was restless, creative, and all-encompassing -- his final album, released in 2010, even ventured into reggae and reggaeton. He and his various bands toured the U.S and Mexico for decades.

Hurricane's given name was Alberto Nelson Sanchez. His stage name was actually a childhood nickname from his mother, Bennie, to signify his unique ability to knock things over even when sitting down. He was the first of four children from a very musical family. His father, a miner during the day and a musician by night, had his own band; he taught his son to play guitar at age five. Al's mother was an entrepreneur. She founded and remained president of Hurricane Enterprises until her death. She promoted concerts for her family: not only Al, but his brothers Baby Gaby and Tiny Morrie, Hurricane's sons Al Hurricane, Jr. and Jerry Dean, and Morrie's son Lorenzo Antonio (Sparx). She also produced concerts in Albuquerque for Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Chubby Checker, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley.

Hurricane's professional career began when he was 12, playing around Albuquerque's historic Old Town neighborhood, after which he became a singing waiter and busked on the area's streets. He also began to perform at the Sky Line Club, a venue where he would begin to build his fan base. After graduating from high school in 1954, he formed a band with his brothers called Al Hurricane & the Night Rockers. Quickly establishing a local audience and being showcased on radio earned them a contract for a single with Warner Bros. -- "Lobo" and its B-side "Racer" were instrumental rock/surf-style songs issued in 1962. Over the next five years, they played shows almost constantly, recorded roughly a single a year, and were the top show band in town.

Al Hurricane & the Night Rockers issued their self-released debut album, Mi Saxophone, in 1967. It was recorded on gear purchased from Norman Petty and had been used to record Buddy Holly a decade before. Thanks to its lead single, "Sentimiento" b/w the title track, the record gained enough airplay regionally that the band was able to tour the Northwest and Southwest, and throughout Western Mexico. The single had been recorded and released two years earlier, but it generated so much interest that leaving it off the album was unthinkable.

On November 1, 1969, he was involved in an automobile accident that claimed his right eye. He continued with an eye patch that became a signature fixture and added to his charm as a performer. Hedging his bets given his altered physical appearance, Hurricane guaranteed the band gigs for years to come: he and his brothers bought the Sky Line Club in Albuquerque and eventually renamed it The Far West. That club became the home of the Al Hurricane Band, as well as a stopping point for many norteño and tejano artists to perform -- including a young Selena.

The band recorded steadily, issuing a slew of albums through 1974, expanding their sound to embrace more country & western and regional Mexican styles that in turn expanded their touring possibilities. Al Hurricane & the Night Rockers toured the Midwest and the East Coast and garnered enough interest to play South America. The band's fifth album, 1973's Instrumentales con Al Hurricane, was an all-instrumental date that showcased their '50s-style sound but left the Night Rockers moniker behind. He followed it with a collaborative album with his brother Tiny Morrie, titled Para las Madrecitas. Meanwhile, Hurricane became a regular on both television and radio variety and talk shows.

Cantan Corridos, a 1979 album by Al Hurricane and son Al Hurricane, Jr., marked a stylistic turning point. A year later, Hurricane's corridos collection La Prision de Santa Fe (which was also the album's hit single) was released. During one of her early swings through Hurricane's club, Selena heard him performing "Sentimiento" and loved it. She eventually recorded it on her 1984 album, Alpha. Hurricane liked to keep things in the family; during the 1980s he not only released a family tribute to mothers entitled Te Debo Tanto that featured much of his extended family, he issued 15 Exitos Rancheros with Al Hurricane, Jr. and Tiny Morrie, which was a regional hit. On the heels of the project, Hurricane joined the supergroup Bandido. They issued three albums -- two on Musart and one on EMI/Capitol -- as well as a compilation that charted in Chicago, on the American West Coast, and in Germany, Venezuela, and Spain.

Hurricane issued the solo effort The Return of Al Hurricane "El" Godfather" in 1990. During that decade, he focused on a return to his love of traditional ranchera music (as evidenced by the albums Sigue... "La Leyenda"!!! and The Legend of New Mexico) and wrote many songs and corridos in the form, but for his audiences he continued to perform classic country and roots rock & roll nuggets alongside his new work.

At the turn of the century he was the subject of the documentary Al Hurricane: Native Legend. The 60-minute film featured an unreleased song called "Siempre," which became the title track of his next album; while continuing to focus on ranchera and country, Siempre also wove in Mexican cumbia rhythms. That decision proved fruitful. The material became popular with New Mexico radio audiences as well as concert attendees and provided the impetus for the follow-up, ¡Que Viva el Godfather!, in 2003. The latter album reached number one in airplay on New Mexico radio stations.

Due to touring obligations, Hurricane would not record again until 2007's Albuquerque. A year later, the Tribute to Al Hurricane concert was recorded and released as an audio/video package. His final album, 2010's Hey Sugar Baby!, showcased not only his trademark sounds but also delved into reggaeton, reggae, and other global genres/styles -- including Turkish music. Hurricane continued to tour and to play locally. After announcing in 2015 he had Stage 4 prostate cancer, he basically retired but did emerge from time to time, while continuing to write songs and encourage his musical family. In the summer of 2017 he managed to perform during the celebration of the renaming of the Civic Plaza stage in downtown Albuquerque as the Al Hurricane Pavilion. It was his final performance. He died that October, at the age of 81. ~ Thom Jurek

Dixon, NM
July 10, 1936