George Jones

Book Review: A parade of originals sings a country tune

"Johnny's Cash & Charley's Pride: Lasting Legends and Untold Adventures in Country Music" (Spring House Press), by Peter Cooper

In his new book on country music, in the midst of a riff about Tom T. Hall's ascent, Peter Cooper boils the Nashville songwriting business down to its nuclear core.

"When a songwriter signed a publishing deal — and this holds true today — his job was to write songs that would please the publisher. And publishers are pleased by songs that get played on the radio. It's 'Figure out what's working, and then do that.' Makes perfect sense, though the end of that road is most often frustration and burnout for the creators, and for...