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Remembering How Mel Tillis Overcame Stuttering To Be A Country Music Star

One of Nashville's most prolific hit-makers died Sunday. Mel Tillis spent the last year dealing with intestinal issues, according to his publicist. He died at a hospital in Ocala, Florida, at age 85.

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Bobby Allyn / WPLN

The deal Gov. Bill Haslam struck with the Tennessee Hospital Association as part of his push to expand Medicaid in Tennessee is being closely followed by state leaders and hospital executives in other states that have resisted expanding coverage as part of the president's healthcare law.

Chas Sisk / WPLN

Bluegrass fans lined up on a bitterly cold fall night outside the speakeasy-style door of the Station Inn, a tiny, decades-old club in Nashville’s hyper-developing Gulch neighborhood.

Nineteen-year-old Caleb Montgomery took his place near the front. A guitarist, Montgomery already had visited at least a half dozen times since moving to Nashville for college a little over a year ago.

The energy, he said, is incomparable.

“This is a great venue for hearing bluegrass. Best in town, by far,” Montgomery said. “There’s such a small amount of people in there and you’re so close to the performers.”

 

TNGOP

Despite Republicans’ overwhelming majority in the state legislature, Rep. Sheila Butt feels like her party could be vulnerable. The potential culprit, she says, could come from Democrats infiltrating Republican primaries. She says this scenario recently played out in a local mayor’s race in Maury County, and she wants to know if it’s more widespread.

“In our family, at home, our family made our decisions,” she said. “I think it might be time in the state of Tennessee for our Republican family and Democratic family to make those decisions.”

Bobby Allyn / WPLN

Governor Bill Haslam says there’s no way around hiking the state’s gas tax some time in the future. The tax, which hasn’t increased since 1989, is not keeping up with the rising cost of building and maintaining Tennessee’s roads and bridges.

Improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid and electric cars are a boon to the environment, but the governor says they hurt gas taxes. What’s more, Haslam says federal transportation funding is always uncertain, noting that Congress’ temporary fixes on the federal highway fund make it tricky to plan long-term projects.

Michael Noirot via Flickr

Thomm Jutz, a Nashville songwriter from Germany (who is now a U.S. citizen), has put out a three-part album about one of America’s thorniest periods — the Civil War. Volume 3 of The 1861 Project, which features singers including Kim Richey and Bobby Bare, focuses on the Battle of Franklin. Take a listen to how Jutz crafted the folk music album.

Emily Siner / WPLN

Nashville’s Music City Center has had 750,000 visitors since it opened about a year and a half ago — and a lot of them have probably gotten lost. 

The convention center spans 1.2 million square feet over several floors. To help people find their way, the MCC released a smartphone app, called Music City Center. I tried it out after the official launch event Wednesday morning.

Tajhiee Cockerham has a small frame, big brown eyes and a baby face. Clad in the standard-issue orange jumpsuit, the 18-year-old joined me in a tiny, bare room where inmates usually conference with attorneys. I wrote letters to Cockerham and the other eight teens who escaped from Woodland Hills in September and have since been placed in Nashville’s Criminal Justice Center, an adult jail. Though most of the them ignored my request, Cockerham agreed to sit down for a conversation. Jail officials gave us 20 minutes.

Tajhiee Cockerham has a small frame, big brown eyes and a baby face. Clad in the standard-issue orange jumpsuit, the 18-year-old joined me in a tiny, bare room where inmates usually conference with attorneys. I wrote letters to Cockerham and the other eight teens who escaped from Woodland Hills in September and have since been placed in Nashville’s Criminal Justice Center, an adult jail. Though most of the them ignored my request, Cockerham agreed to sit down for a conversation. Jail officials gave us 20 minutes.

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Nina Cardona / Nashville Public Radio

Former Tennessee Tech professor Wonkak Kim is back in Middle Tennessee for a visit, so of course we made sure to have him swing through our studios for a performance. Kim, a clarinetist, brought with him the Parker String Quartet. The ensemble is currently on tour and is serving a residency at Harvard.

Nina Cardona / Nashville Public Radio

Mozart wrote his opera, The Marriage of Figaro, in the late 18th century, long before reality television. However, a new production featuring Blair School of Music students highlights the similarities between the over-the-top antics and scheming of the classical-era plot and modern-day shows like Big Brother and The Bachelor. Ahead of their very contemporary production, singers from the Vanderbilt Opera Theater came to sing highlights from the show.

Nina Cardona / Nashville Public Radio

Baritone Jeffrey Williams is a cheerful, friendly guy, but he loves singing roles that explore the darker side of life. The Austin Peay State University professor obtained a Center for Excellence grant for composer Leanna Kirchoff to write a mono-opera based on Guy de Maupassant's "Diary of a Madman," which premiered on a Halloween night recital of spooky and creepy classical music at Austin Peay. Williams is joined by Ben Harris on piano and Kevin Jablonsk playing double-bass, with the composer on hand to tell us about her approach to the piece.

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