Salas Project Band

Playing at the Arizona State Fair this year will be the White Mountain’s own Salas Project. Started years ago in California by Sal Salas, the band may have changed band members a number of times, but Sal Salas remains the glue. The band today is (from left) Dave Rapp, Roy Figueroa, Sal Salas and Roger Sides.

WHITE MOUNTAINS – Salas Project is the name of the band Sal Salas started many years ago in California. Though the band members have changed over time, he remains the constant as its founder – marking a nearly 50 year music career as a guitarist, songwriter and singer.

With his musician father who played the guitar and the harp, Sal inherited the music gene. When he was 12, his father taught him keyboard and drums. After Sal started Salas Project, he and some of the original band members went on a 17-state tour with the Drifters and the Coasters. During that time, they couldn’t find a bass player, so Sal played bass.

Another feather in Sal’s cap is that one of his former singers is now with Keith Urban.

Until he retired three and a half years ago, Sal’s day job was his small business which encompassed maintenance and remodeling. Now he can do music full time.

“We also support the military,” said Sal. “I was in the military for 12 years, the Navy Special Forces.”

Percussionist Roger Sides is originally from Lubbock County, Texas. His dad was a police officer in the town of Littlefield after World War II, but he and Roger’s uncle also had their own radio show and his dad taught music. Roger heard the story many times about his dad teaching a dark-haired kid how to play the guitar – before Roger was born – and that kid turned out to be quite famous – he was none-other than Waylon Jennings.

Roger joined the pep band at school when he was in the fifth grade in Nevada where they had moved. It was about all they had available since it was a town of only 350 people.

After the British invasion (the Beatles, that is), Roger had to play the drums. In 1969 his mother co-signed a loan with him and he pumped gas and did some hauling to make the $27.35 a month payment for his drum set – the drum set he still plays on today.

Roger is also a songwriter; he says he still has the Library of Congress paperwork at home for a song he wrote, “I’d Rather Not Fall,” that he did not submit because a famous singer beat him to the punch with words so close to his.

While supplementing his musical habit, Roger worked at the papermill in Snowflake for 34 years.

Dave Rapp found his way to Overgaard from Mesa five years ago. He was born in Ohio and he is the rhythm guitar player for the band. All agree that he is also great on vocals.

Until Dave was 49 years old, he had never touched a guitar. He had played a coronet in the third grade, and he loved music. He and his wife were avid concert goers and he said they would sit in the audience and he would say to her, “I could do that.”

So, for his birthday, his wife bought him a guitar, complete with lessons and now he has 10 guitars and four amps and has proven that “he can do that.”

Retired from 10 years in air conditioning and 20 years with Cavco Industries, he said the jobs “paid for the vice.”

He also said, tongue in cheek, “I have never fallen off the stage while performing.”

The newest member of the band — two weeks new — is Roy Figueroa from Snowflake by way of Phoenix. Father of nine, from ages nine months to 19 years, two of his talented children, R.J., 18, who plays the ukulele, and Serena, 19, who sings and has her own hula hoop dance business, occasionally join the band on stage, giving the band a three-for-one from their newest member.

With an organ in the bedroom growing up, and a father who played in a band, Roy played organ and guitar at an early age. In school he gravitated to the saxophone. He even played with his father for four years. His father was with the Dewdrops and in his era, he also played with Pango in Phoenix.

Though Roy is the bass player with the band now, he occasionally pulls out his saxophone for certain numbers.

Until recently Roy’s career has been in nutrition, and he is totally excited to be a part of the band.

“I am impressed with the family feeling in the group,” expressed Roy. “Everybody is so nice and they accepted me right away.”

That’s the feeling the entire band has. Deborah Salas is their booking agent and she makes sure they are doing what they love. Recently a gig was canceled and she filled in the time with a picnic for the band and their family members – the thing that makes them not just band members, but real friends.

The band plays a little bit of everything from Van Halen to Patsy Cline to Tom Petty to AC/DC and they play for all venues.

The big news for now is that Salas Project is working on a CD of original tunes and, per Sal, they hope to have them out in time for the State Fair in October, and updates on where they play next are on the Salas Project Facebook page.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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