Guitarist Bob Hawkins, right, plays with Nick-I and A.D.D at a show at The Cliff in Laguna Beach. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / July 16, 2014)

Bob Hawkins was strumming his guitar in front of a live audience at the Cliffs in Laguna Beach, celebrating Cinco de Mayo, when his heart attack hit.

"I was playing the first note of the set and I felt kind of odd," he remembered. "I was becoming increasingly fatigued and I felt like a weight was on my chest."

Despite feeling chest pain and a lack of circulation in his arm, he continued playing, though he had to sit on an amplifier. During a break, the 64-year-old guitarist relayed his symptoms to a friend, who rushed across the street to get aspirin.

"Next thing I know, we're driving to South Coast [Community] Hospital, where doctors tested me, and I'm on a gurney to Mission Hospital," the Aliso Viejo resident said.

Hawkins needed an emergency stent to save his life.

A week later, surgeons would have to perform a quadruple bypass.


John Hall, a fellow musician in their band Hautewerk, had an idea for aiding his friend, who is uninsured. It had to do with an auction, a guitar and his connections to the band R.E.M.

As chief executive of Rickenbacker, the electric and bass guitar manufacturer whose models became permanently intertwined with the sound and look of the Beatles, Hall decided to donate a Model 360 Jetglo electric guitar signed by the original members of R.E.M. Hawkins would receive 100% of the proceeds from the auction, to take place online through eBay from July 17 to 27.

The model of the guitar is identical to the one played by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck.

"I wanted somebody obviously high-profile," Hall said Wednesday when discussing why he selected R.E.M. to sign the guitar. "And we've been good friends of each other."

So much so that Buck, lead guitarist with R.E.M., plays on Hautewerk's current album — he overdubbed his parts from his home in Oregon.

Hall reached out to DeWitt Burton, the equipment manager and producer for R.E.M., and asked for the band members to sign the guitar.

It wouldn't be an easy task.

Singer Michael Stipe is usually in Europe.

Bassist Michael Mills is an in-demand producer.

Drummer Bill Berry retired.

And Buck was in Ireland but had returned to Portland.

"It was the alignment of the sun, moon and stars, because it's so rare to catch three of the four guys at the same time in Athens," Hall said of the band, which formed in the Georgia city.

Burton knew three of the members would be in the band's office the same week. After gathering their signatures, Burton shipped the guitar to Buck's home in Portland, where Buck wrote the final signature and shipped the guitar back.