MTV turns 40 years old today. It’s officially middle aged. And it moved on from playing music videos long ago.
The network did jump start the mass adoration of music videos. And because of MTV, those videos evolved from clips of concert footage to mini-movies with actors and elaborate sets. And it all started at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1. The first spoken words on MTV:
“Ladies and gentlemen, rock ‘n’ roll.” Then viewers saw an astronaut (in honor of Neil Armstrong) plant an MTV flag on the surface of the moon. The first video was appropriate: Video Killed The Radio Star by the Buggles.
MTV was all about pop music and pop culture. But eventually, Music Television got around to another genre — country.
Can you guess which country star MTV anointed was cool enough to appeal to its hip, young fans? Hint, he was cool enough to date actress Sharon Stone, a sex symbol of the 1980s-90s.
Can You Guess Which Country Star First Appeared on MTV?
Figure it out yet? It’s Dwight Yoakam, the now 64-year-old musician. And here’s why MTV liked Yoakam. On the network’s site, there’s an article to wish Yoakam a happy birthday. It gave some background:
“In the ’70s, when Yoakam arrived in Nashville, the town was more interested in slick, pop-oriented country than Yoakam’s back-to-roots music. So Yoakam relocated to Los Angeles, where he and his friend, guitarist Pete Anderson, played nightclubs that often hosted punk rockers, such as X and the Dead Kennedys. Yoakam was able to expand his fanbase by performing for the punk fans.”
The first country video played by MTV was Yoakam’s cover of Honky Tonk Man. Johnny Horton first made it a hit in 1956. But three decades later, Yoakam turned it into a top 5 song. Get some Yoakam nostalgia for your Sunday, then check back with us on the other side for some more fun MTV info with a dose of country spice.
The site a Taste of Country came up with the five country videos that received the most traction from MTV.
It’s probably no surprise that Taylor Swift was the first country star to win a VMA. That was back in 2009 for the song and video “You Belong with Me.” As a side note, that’s the VMA’s in which Kanye West took the microphone and proclaimed that Beyonce deserved the award, not Swift. And Swift now is more pop than country.
Johnny Cash and his cover of “Hurt” also rated highly with the MTV crowd. Of course, a song originally performed by Nine Inch Nails would appeal to the rock-n-roll audience. Cash received VMA nominations for best song and video in 2003, the year he died.
Meanwhile, Yoakam still is touring and going strong. Four days ago, he had a Twitter exchange with Carrie Underwood. They’re both big fans of the other’s work. And they closed out the final day of CMA Summer Jam in Nashville. If only MTV played those songs.