UNMC researcher cheers on musical sons

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Terry Hexum, Ph.D., with his sons, Nick, center, and Zack.
It's 12:45 a.m. and the phone rings.

"Is Nick there?"

It's a frequent question at the Hexum house, said Terry Hexum, Ph.D., despite the fact that his oldest son lives in Los Angeles, where he is the lead singer/guitarist for the popular band 311.

Soon, callers also will be asking for his youngest son, Zack, whose band just released its first solo debut album titled "The Story So Far."

The Hexum men were together Friday when Nick and Zack performed free at Omaha's 150th birthday festival in Memorial Park, drawing between 25,000 and 30,000 fans from such states as Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Colorado. The concert was part of a three-day celebration to mark Omaha's 150th birthday.

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Terry Hexum, Ph.D., displays the T-shirt he wore Friday in support of his sons.
"I'm so proud of them," said Dr. Hexum, beaming as his sons played an acoustic set Friday afternoon at a crowded Homer's in west Omaha. "You just ride on it as a parent."

Wearing a white T-shirt that read "Nick & Zack's very proud dad," UNMC's professor of pharmacology stood stage right as his sons entertained the diverse crowd. Some displayed 311 tattoos. Others, who traveled all night to make the show, wore 311 T-shirts proclaiming, "Home with Hexum." Still others brought CDs and posters for autographs.

Performing a mix of rock, rap, funk and reggae, the Omaha quintet of 311 has sold more than 7 million albums. "Their success sneaks up on you," Dr. Hexum said, remembering their early days playing at The Ranch Bowl. "Some said they wouldn't make it, but Nick's spirit is absolutely indomitable."

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Nick Hexum, lead singer for 311, foreground, joins his brother, Zack, at Homer's Friday to promote Zack's new album.
Now, his youngest son has embarked on a recording career, releasing an autobiographical album, which mixes rock, pop and jazz. To help launch his career, he has opened several times for his brother's band.

Music has always filled the Hexum house on 86th Street, said stepmother Deanna Hexum. "It became a part of their lives because of the place it had in our lives," Dr. Hexum said.

Their sons' musical abilities have been inspired by a variety of musical genres. "The kids liked the music from Hair," he said, but his sons and daughter, Angela, also heard lots of Santana, Janice Joplin, Three Dog Night, classical, 1970s pop and oldies from the 1950s.

Dr. Hexum played cornet in his high school and college band. Their mother, Pat, who lives in Corpus Christi, also was musically inclined.

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Terry Hexum, Ph.D., and his wife, Deanna, applaud during Zack Hexum's acoustic set at Homer's.
Earlier this year, Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey called the Hexum house to see if 311 would perform for the city's birthday festival. The problem: 311 wasn't touring, Dr. Hexum said, and returning for one gig would have been too expensive. But, when they scheduled a summer tour, they were eager to include a stop in Omaha, sandwiched between gigs in Kansas City and Indianapolis. Nick had always wanted to play at Memorial Park.

When Dr. Hexum went to a performance earlier this year in Wichita, he hand carried a letter to Nick from the mayor. It was an official invitation to perform for the city's birthday bash.

Dr. Hexum joined UNMC's pharmacology department in 1971. In addition to teaching pharmacology courses, he is active in cardiovascular and neuroscience research. He also served as president of the UNMC Faculty Senate in 2002.

On Friday, Dr. Hexum and his family stood backstage watching thousands of fans cheer for his sons, as well as their lifelong friend Curt Grubb of Grasshopper Takeover, who also opened for 311.

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Nick Hexum and 311 headlined Friday's concert for Omaha's 150 birthday.
"It's a perfect summer night for a concert in the park," Nick Hexum told the crowd before launching into a two-hour set, which included such songs as "Come Original," "Rub a Dub," All Mixed Up," and the recent No. 1 hit single, "Love Song."

311 fans are "well behaved and a pleasure to talk to," said Deanna Hexum, particularly when they call during daylight hours.

And, if the phone starts ringing for Zack, well, he, too, lives in Los Angeles.