The original MTV VJs appeared when the music video TV channel MTV first hit the airwaves on 1 August 1981. It would soon become a cultural phenomenon and would broadcast videos of popular songs around the clock.
Creation of MTV VJs (VeeJays)
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.
Born on 12 September 1955 in Massachusetts, Nina Blackwood spent her formative years in Cleveland, Ohio. She first became involved in music as a singer and keyboard player in high school. Nina Blackwood has had a wide career ranging from nude photos in Playboy to live theater throughout the country. Wanting to be a professional actress, she studied her 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.
Born in Philadelphia on 11 October 1950, Mark Goodman 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 original MTV VJs for the new network. Besides his 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 Goodman appeared in several films and television shows before returning to mainstream radio in the late 1980s.
Like Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter started out his public career as an actor, appearing in live theater productions in places as diverse as Alabama and New York City. Born in Birmingham, Alabama on February 14, 1957, he had a chance encounter in the late spring of 1981 with an MTV executive. This led to his being chosen to join the channel as a VJ. Alan Hunter 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 1988 and later formed the company Hunter Films in 1995.
J. J. Jackson
Born on 25 November 1941, J.J. Jackson is the oldest of the original MTV VJs. He 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. Jackson 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 on 17 March 2004 following a heart attack.
Unlike her teammates, Martha Quinn did not have a long career prior to being picked to be as an MTV VJ. Born on 11 May 1959, Quinn is a native of Albany, New York. She worked at New York University (NYU) and interned at a radio station when a radio executive suggested to Martha she audition for an on-air job for an upcoming music television channel. Martha Quinn flourished at MTV and became arguably their most popular VeeJay. In fact, Rolling Stone magazine named her the channel’s “MTV’s Best-Ever VJ.” Quinn eventually left MTV and did some acting gigs before returning to radio in the mid-2000s.
Born on 5 May 1945 in Ocean City, NJ, Kurt Loder is not one of the original MTV VJs. However, he certainly is a face strongly linked to MTV in the 1980s. Kurt Loder is most famous for the Week in Rock segment 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. MTV shifted focus to creating more special non-videos programming and ongoing reality TV shows.