The Original Five MTV VJs: Where Are They Now?

On August 1, 1981, the crew behind a new television network could be found tensely waiting in a bar in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as their creation made its debut on the airwaves for the first time. MTV music television was launched despite early problems, including crossing the Hudson River because New York City did not carry the stations. This changed the entire face of the music industry and pop culture, as will be detailed in the special Biography: I Want My MTV, which will air on A&E on September 8 at 9 pm Eastern and 8 pm Central.

The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to be broadcast, and it was hosted by the very first group of MTV video jockeys, also known as VJs. This group consisted of Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson, and Nina Blackwood. The song “Video Killed the Radio Star” introduced a new television concept.

Despite the fact that most of their stints lasted between five and seven years, the group has remained together over the course of the decades. In 2013, they co-wrote a book entitled VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, and they continue to make public appearances at events such as the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 2019.


Jackson passed away in 2004, however, before his passing, he was making arrangements to reunite with his fellow original VJs on Sirius XM Radio. At the time of his passing, the surviving four original VJs worked together on Sirius XM Radio’s 80s radio station. Jackson’s death was a tragic loss.

Mark Goodman

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Mark Goodman in 1982, Goodman in 2013; Photos: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images; Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic

Mark Goodman was already a seasoned radio DJ when he was offered the position of MTV VJ after two auditions. He told Gothamist that during one of the auditions, he mock-interviewed a staff member while standing in an “obnoxious Billy Joel.” Goodman eventually got the job.

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In an early segment of MTV, which can be seen on the special titled “Biography,” he is quoted as saying, “We’re a lot like your favorite radio station, but you’ll see your favorite music.” Soon after, the teleprompter scripts were thrown away to give the network a more rock-and-roll feel. This gave the VJs the freedom to ad-lib during their shows. “What we do here has nothing to do with television. “This is unrelated to anything else,” Goodman explained. Goodman has maintained a career in the music industry ever since he stepped down from his post as a VJ in August 1987. He has held positions at KROQ,, and VH1 Classic, and he has also served as the music coordinator for the television show Desperate Housewives. Since 2004, he has been employed by Sirius XM Radio, where he works as a host for many stations, including Vintage Rewind, The Spectrum, and The 80s on 8.

Martha Quinn

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Martha Quinn in 1985, Quinn in 2013; Photos: Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images; Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic

Martha Quinn was only 22 years old when she got the job, but she had already worked on advertisements while she was in college, and more impressively, she had an extensive understanding of music.

Quinn quickly became an integral component of the network’s brand, even though her function was unclear when she first joined the show. Despite the fact that she left MTV in 1986 and then returned from 1989 to 1992, fans of Rolling Stone voted her the network’s Best-Ever VJ.

Yet, for her, it was never about anything other than her fellow original VJs. She told Emmy magazine that she was “completely enamored with them.” “I was entirely enamored with them.” “They were coerced into spending all of their time with me. And to this day, our family bonds remain as strong as ever. It’s very incredible.

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After leaving MTV, Quinn went on to star in some iconic television shows, including as Bobby Brady’s wife in the 1990 episode of The Bradys, as a guest star on Full House in 1992 and 1993, as a co-host of Star Search alongside Ed McMahon in 1994, and as a contributor to the CBS morning show Early Show.

Now that she’s back, she can focus on doing what she does best. She departed Sirius XM’s 80s station in 2016 and works for iHeartRadio’s iHeart80s. In addition, she is the host of her podcast Talk Talk with Martha Quinn.

Alan Hunter

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Alan Hunter in 1983, Hunter in 2013; Photos: Mark Weiss/WireImage; Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic

When it initially began broadcasting on the airwaves, Alan Hunter was the first face that viewers saw on MTV. But that wasn’t exactly how it was supposed to go; there was a problem with the tape, and the original part didn’t quite match up, so Hunter was, introducing the world to the idea of music television when he shouldn’t be.

He served in a leadership capacity for the first six years of the network’s existence. In the program about his life titled “Biography,” he is quoted as saying, “We didn’t know who was watching, but then you’d go to a record store appearance, and there are a thousand kids in line.” “Everyone in the nation was completely obsessed with it. We entered the clubs, and the doormen and bouncers soon became familiar with our faces.

Yet, he was also aware of the truth, as he stated, “We thought we were the center of MTV as the VJs, [but] the real parties, the real money, and touring the world in jets was happening in the executive offices.”

Soon after, Hunter found himself working behind the scenes as well. After returning to Birmingham, Alabama, his hometown, he and his brothers established a production studio called Hunter Pictures and an entertainment venue called WorkPlay. In addition, he is currently the co-host of the Sirius XM program “The 80s on 8” with Goodman and Blackwood.

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J.J. Jackson

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J.J. Jackson in 1982, Jackson in 2001; Photos: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images; Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

After beginning his career in radio in Boston and Los Angeles in the 1960s, J.J. Jackson went on to work as a music reporter for KABC-TV in Los Angeles. J.J. Jackson is credited with having the greatest experience before becoming a VJ. Yet it was unquestionably his job as a VJ that established him as an important figure in the annals of pop culture.

During his career at MTV, which lasted from 1981 through 1986, he covered Live Aid in 1985 and was instrumental at the beginning of the 120 Minutes series.

After that, he returned to radio and began working at KTWV in Los Angeles. He resigned in late 2003 to join Goodman at Sirius XM, but a terrible accident prevented him from doing so. At 62, he passed away on March 17, 2004, which appears to have been a result of a heart attack.

Nina Blackwood

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Nina Blackwood in 1981, Blackwood in 2013; Photos: Brownie Harris/Corbis via Getty Images; Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic

When flipping through Billboard, Nina Blackwood came across an advertisement for MTV. Her bio for Sirius XM claims that she “sent in my resume and 8×10,” which means that she submitted both. “They hired me as the first MTV VJ after two auditions,” the candidate said.

She departed MTV in 1986 and continued to host, taking up the “Rock Report” on Entertainment Tonight and Solid Gold from 1986 to 1988. Blackwood also returned to radio with the show Nina Blackwood’s Totally ’80s, which airs on the United Stations Radio Network. She currently co-hosts The 80s on 8 on the Sirius XM radio station.