ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hundreds of friends, fans and family members of Al Hurricane gathered in front of Queen of Heaven Church after the musician’s funeral Monday and swapped stories about the man called the “Godfather of New Mexico music.”
People smiled and brushed away tears as they described a man who seemed to like everyone, and treated strangers as friends.
“He was just loved by so many people,” said his son, Al Hurricane Jr., who followed his father into the music business.
“He was an awesome man,” he said. “You can just tell by the people here today; he always didn’t mind shaking people’s hands, talking to people.”
Many shared similar opinions about Al Hurricane’s personal attachment to his fans and the people of New Mexico.
“Al had a heart of gold,” said Dennis Roybal, 64, who described him as a friend of 30 years. “He had a good word for everyone. That’s why you see so many people here today.”
Al Hurricane was born Alberto Nelson Sanchez on July 10, 1936, in Dixon. The family later moved to Albuquerque, where he graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1954. He died Oct. 22 at age 81.
With encouragement from his parents, Hurricane began his professional music career in 1955 playing for tips around Old Town Plaza.
He recorded more than 30 albums in a career spanning more than five decades, and developed an international fan base, performing in Europe, Latin America and across the U.S.
Queen of Heaven was packed for the funeral Mass, with many standing against the back wall of the church. A mariachi band provided music throughout the service.
“It’s amazing how Al put New Mexico on the map,” the Rev. Richard Alona said during the service.
“He was an ambassador for New Mexico in a very real way,” Alona said. “Music is a common denominator. Music speaks to all of us.”
Friends and fans sought out a reporter after the service to volunteer their recollections of the man that several described as New Mexico’s Elvis Presley.
“He was so down to earth,” said Sider Esquibel, who previously owned a club in Las Vegas where Al Hurricane performed. “Once he met you, he knew you forever.”
Sandra Tinlin, Al Hurricane’s daughter, recalled that at family gatherings, her father planted himself at a piano and sang and played long into the night with other members of his large, musical family.
“He composed a song, a story for kids, that is dear to all of our hearts,” Tinlin said of her father. “All the kids gathered around every time he played it.”
After the funeral, the family planned to celebrate Al Hurricane Jr.’s 58th birthday with music and stories, she said.
“There will be music, I’m sure of it,” Tinlin said. “And there will be a lot of crying, too.”