Blake Farmer

In the operating room, surgical masks and matching scrubs can make it hard to tell who's whom — at least for outsiders.

Patients getting wheeled in might not realize that salespeople working on commission are frequently present and sometimes even advise the clinical team during surgery.

Who are these salespeople, and why are they there?

The largest insurer in Tennessee has announced it will no longer cover prescriptions for what was once a blockbuster pain reliever. It's the latest insurance company to turn against OxyContin, whose maker, Purdue Pharma, faces dozens of lawsuits related to its high-pressure sales tactics around the country and contribution to the opioid crisis.

Alarms go off so frequently in emergency rooms that doctors barely notice — until a colleague is wheeled in on a gurney, clinging to life. All of a sudden, that alarm becomes a deafening wake-up call.

For Dr. Kip Wenger, that colleague, a 33-year-old physician, was also his friend.

Wenger is regional medical director for TeamHealth, one of the country's largest emergency room staffing companies, based in Knoxville, Tenn.

Vicki Bartholomew started a support group for wives who are caring for a husband with Alzheimer's disease because she needed that sort of group herself.

They meet every month in a conference room at a new memory care facility in Nashville, Tenn., called Abe's Garden, where Bartholomew's husband was one of the first residents — a Vietnam veteran and prominent attorney in Nashville.

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ELISE HU, HOST:

Country star Mel Tillis died yesterday after a long illness. He was 85. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN says the prolific songwriter's road to fame wasn't an easy one.

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.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The end of summer is coming soon, so let's go south for the final installment in our tour of offbeat festivals.

BLAKE FARMER, BYLINE: This is Blake Farmer in East Nashville reporting from the annual Tomato Art Festival.

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.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

There's a school bus driver shortage in districts from Indiana to Florida, and Nashville, Tenn., has one of the most pressing. Nearly a quarter of the city's 550 slots for drivers are unfilled — and that's when no one is sick.

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Opioids have a stranglehold on parts of the U.S. And where addictive pain medicines are the drug of choice, clinics for addiction treatment often follow.

Sometime these are doctor's offices where patients can get painkiller-replacement drugs, such as Subutex and Suboxone.

The Hollywood Bowl. Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Madison Square Garden. They're the iconic venues that round out top-10 lists of the country's best places to see live music. But this summer, Morning Edition is visiting America's side stages, places the locals know and where players love to play. We begin, appropriately, in Music City at 3rd and Lindsley, an intersection that's the home and namesake of an unassuming Nashville venue.

The National Guard has quietly expanded its fleet of unmanned aircraft in the U.S.

A dozen units scattered across the country now have drone-flying missions, and in some places, the Guard is lobbying to use military drones for missions at home.

Leaders of the country's largest Protestant denomination have a message for millennials: get married already.

The Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention and its nearly 16 million members continue to resist societal trends like gay marriage and cohabitation. They also want to go against the grain on the rising marital age.

But back in 1972, Pam Blume was pretty typical. She was just a few years out of high school when she walked down the aisle.

Before there was Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard, there was Ray Price. The Country Music Hall of Famer who bridged Texas honky-tonk and country crooning has died after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 87.

Before Ray Price, honky-tonk tunes weren't big sellers. But then "Crazy Arms" shot to No. 1 in 1956. Its shuffling beat became the hallmark of the golden age of Texas honky-tonk.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When it comes to union organizing at an auto plant, the tension is typically between the workers and the management. But not at Volkswagen in Tennessee. There, the United Auto Workers is attempting to finally unionize the automaker's first foreign-owned plant in the South. And so far, Republican officials are the ones trying to stand in the way.

There was a time when hymns were used primarily to drive home the message that came from the pulpit. But then came the praise songs.

Matt Redman's song "Our God" is the most popular piece of music in Christian churches today. That's according to charts that track congregational singing — yes, there is such a thing. But approaching the Top 10 is a retro hymn: "In Christ Alone," co-written by Keith Getty.

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