Blake Farmer

Copyright 2016 Nashville Public Radio. To see more, visit Nashville Public Radio . DAVID GREENE, HOST: Leon Russell never was exactly a household name, but Elton John called the piano player and songwriter his idol. Leon Russell died in Nashville after a recent heart attack. Blake Farmer from member station WPLN has this appreciation. BLAKE FARMER, BYLINE: Even if you haven't heard Leon Russell, you've heard him through others. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A SONG FOR YOU") WHITNEY HOUSTON: (Singing)...

Jean Shepard, one of the first women to find success in country music as a solo act, died Sunday at age 82. Shepard was a feisty, straight-shooting singer who created a career in an industry where she had few female role models. When Shepard was first driving from town to town playing honky-tonk bars, there were only a couple of other women in country music — Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl among them — who were putting out music by themselves. More often, the women of country were performing...

Jack Daniel's is a historic brand built on stories and legend. To this day, all of the whiskey is made in the hills of little Lynchburg, Tenn. And as part of its 150th anniversary, the company is highlighting a lesser-known part of its story: how a slave played a key role in its founding. The story of Nearis Green first got national attention earlier this summer, when The New York Times ran an article about his role in Jack Daniel's history based on a pitch from the company. Until now, the...

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It's an estate sale for the ages. Stuff belonging to Bill Monroe , the "Father of Bluegrass," is on sale this weekend just outside of Nashville. As the patriarch of a genre and of a passionate musical family, artifacts from his rise to prominence are in high demand. Now, 20 years after his death, the Monroe family is cleaning out the closets. Some of the relics from Monroe's life have become almost priceless — like his Gibson mandolin, which he played almost exclusively and famously sold for...

It's the afternoon lull at Bongo Java East, and five students from KIPP Academy are tripping over each other behind the counter of this hip Nashville coffee joint, trying to show off what they've learned. They're grinding espresso beans. They're packing the grounds. They're steaming milk. "Let's see how this goes," 10th-grader Ayanna Holder says as she knocks a steel pot of scalding milk on the counter to keep foam from forming. She takes a freshly pulled espresso and begins pouring the latte...

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: A one-of-a-kind statute that criminalized drug use by pregnant women is now on track to expire in Tennessee. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports that the so-called fetal assault law didn't work as planned. BLAKE FARMER, BYLINE: This law was controversial from the outset, so it was given a two-year trial phase, and the first required renewal vote was from a legislative committee chaired by...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: For some college basketball fans, just having a team that makes the NCAA tournament is something to cheer about. Well, for fans of Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, though, that cheer might generate some snickering. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports on one of the most memorable chants in college sports. UNIDENTIFIED CHEERLEADERS: (Chanting) Let's go Peay. Let's go Peay. BLAKE FARMER,...

Tens of thousands of Tennessee students steadied their clammy, test-day hands over a keyboard several days ago. And, for many, nothing happened. It was the state's first time giving standardized exams on computers, but the rollout couldn't have gone much worse. In lots of places, the testing platform slowed to a crawl or appeared to shut down entirely. Within hours, Tennessee scrapped online testing for the year. The move comes after schools spent millions of dollars to buy additional PCs and...

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