Fundraisers Set for Local Music Legend

Bob Hawkins among his element at The Guitar Shoppe in north Laguna Beach.
Bob Hawkins among his element at The Guitar Shoppe in north Laguna Beach.

After experiencing a heart attack in the middle of a set earlier this month, a local musician is expected to be shown some love for his considerable talent in two fundraising musical extravaganzas.   The first, a musical feast of local artists, will take place at 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 3, at Mozambique Steakhouse, 1740 S. Coast Highway.

The fundraisers for guitarist Bob Hawkins, who has no health insurance, will help recoup lost income and supplement substantial medical bills.

“It was Cinco de Mayo, which will always live in infamy for me now,” said Hawkins of that ill-fated evening. Hawkins was slightly late for his set at The Cliff restaurant with the Ken Garcia Band and “wolfed” down a sandwich on the way. He figured he was experiencing indigestion. “I thought, ‘I’m not processing this sandwich well.’”

Starting to feel unusually fatigued, Hawkins sat down on his amp when he wasn’t playing a solo. Then the telltale signs set in. “All of a sudden, it felt like I had a heavy weight pressing on the middle of my chest, pain shooting into my back and, then, the really classic one, lack of circulation and tingling down the arms and in the hands,” he said. “I was fortunate to be around people. It could have easily happened driving alone somewhere.”

A friend, Katie Sar, made him chew an aspirin, a technique known to inhibit clot blockage from plaque during a heart attack. He drove himself, accompanied by a now-insistent Sar, to the local hospital. His life was saved by an emergency stent that night and quadruple by-pass surgery a week later at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

He also experienced a classic epiphany while lying in his hospital bed recovering. “I didn’t realize how much stress I was creating in my life and how much I was internalizing it,” he said. “That’s the unseen factor for a lot of us. I think that exacerbated the problem.”

The stress, he said, was the mortgage, the car insurance, the credit card bills, typical financial pressures amplified by being a self-employed musician and guitar teacher.

Hawkins was playing a regular Friday engagement at Mozambique with Nick Hernandez Jr. and his band ADD and Saturday nights with John Troy at the Lumberyard Restaurant, among other gigs.

Despite living the life of a rock-and-roll guitarist, Hawkins was conscientious about his health. He gave up all drugs 25 years ago, never smoked and exercised regularly, aware of his family’s history of heart problems.

Like a lot of roving, highly talented and paycheck-to-paycheck musicians, Hawkins fell short on health insurance. To ease that pain, a myriad of local talent stepped up in the last two weeks to bring together the fundraisers.

Organized by Nick Hernandez, Mozambique owner Ivan Spiers and music promoter Rick Conkey of Music Matters, a line-up of local rock stars will start at 7 p.m. on June 3 at Mozambique. The line-up includes local talent Hawkins has played for and was playing with up until this month, including The Missiles of October band, and guitarists and singers Jason Feddy, Nick-I and Billy Sherman, and Ken Garcia and Divina.

Accompaniment will be provided by Troy, a former bass player for Joe Cocker, keyboardist and vocalist Jalani Jones and percussionist Rock Deadrick. Special guest artists are expected. The door is donation-only; drinks are $5 compliments of Spiers, a guitarist who will also step up on stage.

“Bob’s got no money; he’s an artist,” said Feddy, a friend of Hawkins for 15 years. Feddy was also the recipient of community fundraisers when he had a seizure due to diabetes several years ago. “It’s the most perfect insurance policy anyone could ever have,” he said. “We help each other here. That’s what we do.”

Hawkins also played for John Stewart, an original member of the Kingston Trio who wrote “Daydream Believer.” He was in the studio on Stewart’s last and posthumously unreleased album with world-famous guitarist-singer Lindsey Buckingham and drummer Russ Kunkel. “That was one of those benchmarks in one’s career,” said Hawkins, “when you can sit down in the same room with cats you’ve admired and you get to play with someone you always aspired to be like.”

Hawkins hopes to be fully on his feet for the second fundraiser, July 3 at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. That event will be highlighted by singer Shana Morrison, Van Morrison’s daughter, and her band. “That’s my target date for being up and back and active, and playing on stage,” said Hawkins, a friend of the Morrisons.

The show, featuring a list of local bands as well, including Honk and The Girls, starts at 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

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