The Creation of MTV VJs (VeeJays)
The music video TV channel MTV first hit the airwaves on August 1, 1981. It would soon become a cultural phenomenon and would broadcast videos of popular songs around the clock.
Before its initial broadcast, the channel’s executives decided they needed something in-between the videos to introduce the songs, give occasional background on the artist, etc. — similar to what DJs did on the radio. The owners of the channel, Viacom Media Networks, decided to search for people that would appeal to the new channel’s viewership. They finally settled on the following five people from different backgrounds to act as hosts on the channel. These were the original MTV VJs (VeeJays) or Video Jockeys.
Nina has had a wide career ranging from nude photos in Playboy to live theater throughout the country. Born in 1955 in Massachusetts, Nina spent her formative years in Cleveland, Ohio, and first became involved in music as a singer and keyboard player in high school. Wanting to be a professional actress, she studied the craft at the Strasberg Institute. After being picked as an MTV VJ, she stayed with the cable network until 1986. After that gig, she appeared on pop culture TV shows such as Entertainment Tonight and Solid Gold.
Mark got his start in radio broadcasting in Philadelphia in the late 1970s. He worked as a DJ and radio station music director before moving to New York in 1980. He met with executives of MTV and was selected as one of the VJs for the new network. Besides his MTV VeeJay duties, he headed shows within the video rotation such as “120 Minutes,” “The Top 20 Video Countdown” and “The Week In Rock.” After leaving MTV, Mark appeared in several films and television shows before returning to work in mainstream radio in the late 1980s.
Like Nina Blackwood, Alan started out his public career as an actor, appearing in live theater productions in places as diverse as Alabama and New York City. A chance encounter in the late spring of 1981 with an MTV executive led to his being chosen to join the channel as a VJ. He was the first VJ to appear on the initial broadcast of MTV. Over his MTV career he interviewed top musical artists and hosted “Spring Break” and other MTV specials until he left MTV in 1987 to go back to pursuing an acting career.
J. J. JACKSON
The oldest of the VJs, J. J. began his music-related career as a DJ in Boston in the late 1960s. He later moved on to KLOS in Los Angeles, where he stayed for a decade. Wikipedia claims he was one of the first DJs to play songs by then-unknown performers like Led Zeppelin. In the years directly before the launch of MTV, J. J. was a reporter of the music scene for a TV station in Los Angeles. After several years at MTV, he moved back to radio. He passed away in 2004 following a heart attack.
Unlike her teammates, Martha did not have a long career prior to being picked to be as an MTV VJ. A native of Albany, New York, she was working at New York University (NYU) and was an intern at a radio station when a radio executive suggested to Martha that she audition for an on-air job for an upcoming music television channel. She would excel at MTV and would become arguably their most popular VeeJay, being dubbed by no less than Rolling Stone magazine the channel’s “MTV’s Best-Ever VJ.” Martha eventually left MTV and did some acting gigs before returning to radio in the mid-2000s.
Not one of the original VJs, but certainly a face strongly linked to MTV in the 1980s, Kurt Loder was responsible for non-musical news segments on the channel. Before his on-air career, Kurt was an editor at Rolling Stone magazine and worked in other print media before joining MTV in 1987.
Other VJs followed in the footsteps of those first five VJs until the channel began playing fewer videos in the mid-1990s and created more special non-videos programming and ongoing reality TV shows.
“MTV”, Wikipedia, pulled 10/25/17.