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MUSIC MIKE WARFIELD : Boy of the Year : The Chamber of Commerce chose him as Thousand Oaks' leading Young Adult--of 1974--and he's back. On drums.

April 25, 1991|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clean-cut Thousand Oaks High senior in 1974 is honored by Chamber of Commerce as Young Adult of the Year. At chamber awards ceremony, he meets his heartthrob's mother, an influential business owner, and asks permission to date her daughter.

Young Adult of the Year marries heartthrob, lands high-paying sales job in computer industry, buys country home near San Diego. Three kids come. Seventeen years go by.

Young Adult of the Year returns to hometown of Thousand Oaks on business. But he's not selling computer parts.

Young Adult of the Year is playing drums in a blues rock band called Fast Heat. The band will co-headline the Conejo Valley Days festival Saturday night on the Carnival Midway stage at Conejo Creek Park.

Before groans from the Chamber of Commerce become too audible, it ought to be added that Mike Warfield, 34, is also business manager of Fast Heat. Local boy makes music, but profit, however modest, is also part of the package.

"Two years ago, I was a martini-swilling salesman with a big salary and I was miserable," Warfield said. "I went home and told my wife I was going to quit. I thought she'd leave me. Instead she said, 'Good, I'd have left you if you stayed this way.'

"This band makes me feel so much more human than what I was doing before. The agony is behind me."

Warfield landed the Conejo Valley Days gig after contacting boyhood pal Frank Akrey, whose Buster Lighting Design has done sound and lighting for the Academy Awards, Grammys and big-name rock acts. Akrey also happens to be the Conejo Valley Days volunteer entertainment chairman.

"Mike called me and said, 'Hey, bro, I want to play in my hometown,' " Akrey said. "I know Mike is a great drummer and that he loves the blues. He is very persistent, very serious about this band."

Fast Heat has played the San Diego bar circuit for two years, mixing about 40 originals with blues and rock cover songs. Although this is Warfield's first band since high school, the other members of the group are road-tested veterans who were already professional musicians when Warfield was wrestling and playing football at Thousand Oaks High.

Lead vocalist and harmonica player Billy Vega, 41, who has worked with John Lee Hooker and Paul Butterfield, brings the strongest blues background to the band. Guitarist Jim Gallagher, 44, the band's founder, writes the original songs. He has a long resume of band-hopping that begins in the '60s with Stone Country, a group that evolved into the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Bass player Joe Blakely, 40, is a newcomer to Fast Heat who has spent most of his career touring with bands on the East Coast.

Akrey will serve as sound technician at the show and Fast Heat hopes that he is impressed enough to recommend the band to Los Angeles clubs.

"If we're lousy, there's no way we can tell him, 'It was the sound guy's fault,' " Warfield said with a laugh.

* WHERE AND WHEN

Also on the bill Saturday night is Zaca Creek, a country rock band from Thousand Oaks with a couple of recent hits, including "Ghost Town." Fast Heat and Zaca Creek will each play two sets, with Fast Heat opening at 7 p.m. Tonight, Danny Gans, a singer-comedian-impressionist named Atlantic City's and Variety's Entertainer of the Year, will perform with a 21-piece orchestra. Gans is host of the television show "Open House" and has appeared in several movies, including "Bull Durham."

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