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Sanchez: Matriarch to Musicians

By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
          Services will take place this week for Bennie L. Sanchez, a businesswoman, guiding force and matriarch of the musical family that includes her sons Al Hurricane, Tiny Morrie, Baby Gaby and others.
        "She was a great lady," said her son Al "Hurricane" Sanchez. "She taught me everything I know, including the guitar and how to sing.
        "She was great promoter."
        Bennie L. Sanchez, who was 92, died Thursday.
        A visitation will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. today at Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, 5331 Phoenix NE. The rosary will be recited at 7 p.m.
        Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the church, with interment following at Mount Calvary Cemetery.
        "We have such admiration and respect for my grandmother," said Sandra Tinlin, daughter of Al Hurricane. "She is the matriarch of one of the most influential Hispanic families in the entire Southwest."
        Sanchez, who was president of Hurricane Enterprises, not only promoted her family of musicians, but a long list of entertainment greats, including Chubby Checker, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Little Richard and Johnny Cash. Of the Elvis concert of 1972, Tinlin said, "she was very proud of spearheading that promotion."
        Sanchez was an aggressive businesswoman who didn't like to procrastinate about things, someone who took on a task and liked to "take a hold of it, grab it," Tinlin said.
        And inside, Tinlin said, "she just had a love of music."
        Sanchez was born in Albuquerque's Martineztown and spent her early life in the city and northern New Mexico.
        She married Jose Margarito Sanchez, a miner, when she was 15.
        "Two years later, with one child, another on the way, and an injured husband, Mrs. Sanchez began operating a grocery store in Terrero," a 1972 Journal profile of Sanchez reads. "Another two years later, she went to work for a team of physicians and traveled throughout northern New Mexico and assisted the medics in performing minor surgery. This training enabled her to become a licensed practical nurse.
        "Several years later the Sanchez family moved to Silver City where Mr. Sanchez returned to the mines until an eye injury sidelined him. Mrs. Sanchez returned to work, this time as a clerk in a Silver City department store where she eventually worked her way up to cashier. Then another move." To Albuquerque.
        Sanchez worked as a photographer's assistant, seamstress, cook, restaurant owner and nurse before devoting, full time, her efforts to talent promoting, the story reads.
        The piece also notes that Jose Sanchez was part of the band Los Sanchez and that Bennie L. Sanchez was a periodic vocalist with the group and played guitar. Sanchez has a daughter, Frances Flores, along with her sons.
        "She realized at about age 5 that Al, her son, had such an interest in music that she started to teach him how to play the guitar and sing — on one string," Tinlin said, adding that Jose Sanchez taught Al further.
        "It starts off from there," Tinlin said. " My dad got very popular, and she started to promote their music."
        Al Hurricane said, "She was instrumental in getting the whole family — myself, my brothers Baby Gaby (and) Tiny Morrie, and Sparx, Al Hurricane Jr. — started, in going in the right direction in music."
        She was present at almost all of his, and other family members, performances.
        "Anytime I appeared anywhere, whether it be the Civic Auditorium, the Convention Center, Los Angeles, Chicago, she was always there," Al Hurricane said. "I could look out in the crowd and say, 'There's my mom.' "
        Sanchez was the recipient of numerous honors or awards and was recognized by four New Mexico governors.
        Most recently, she was among the recipients of the 2010 Governor's Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women, as given by the state Commission on the Status of Women.

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