The Nashville Network premiered 30 years ago today... and now it's back
Here's Miley Cyrus making possibly her first TV appearance ever -- on The Nashville Network
Thirty years ago today, something big happened in country music. On March 7, 1983, just two years after MTV and the Buggles ushered onto our television sets a consistent -- well, for a time -- rotation of pop music programming, The Nashville Network premiered. It revolutionized the country music video business and brought countless country stars to American homes for the first time. Originally owned by WSM, Inc., the network was launched from the Opryland USA theme park -- now an outlet mall -- and though CMT beat the network to the punch by a whole two days in laying claim to status as the first country music cable television network, over its almost two decade run, TNN became known for its lineup of celebrity variety and talk (and cooking and fishing) shows, before eventually losing its luster and evolving into Spike TV and its rotation of Baywatch reruns.
Last year, it was announced that after a long hiatus TNN would make its return to a number of markets, though sadly, the Twin Cities is not one of them. No worries -- we've compiled the best of the network's glory days right here! And so, join us as we take a video walk through memory lane, and assuming she was a fan, right back to your grandma's couch, circa 1988.
During its time on the air, TNN became known for its heavy lineup of variety, news and interview shows: the Ralph Emery-hosted Nashville Now, which evolved into Music City Tonight and Crook & Chase, as well as variety shows hosted by Tommy Hunter, Bobby Bare and the Statler Brothers.
Here is a 1994 episode of Music City Tonight, featuring Miley Cyrus (and her dad) in their TV premiere. Also making his debut is Miley's first boyfriend, a $450 Willie Nelson doll. Four years later, the elder Cyrus, coming off just a wee bit more confident, appeared alongside Loretta Lynn and a very young-looking Sara Evans on the hour-long The George Jones Show.
And several years later, a 1990 episode of Nashville Now, during which radio DJ turned TV host Ralph Emery reminisces about Hank Williams with country great Faron Young, just six years before Young took his own life.
Also popular was a consistent lineup of network-exclusive game shows, many of them knock-offs of other popular game shows, most featuring salt of the earth types who work in mobile home factories like this episode of the Whisperin' Bill Anderson-hosted trivia show Fandango.
And the fun didn't end there. Once a week an elderly Roy Rogers and Dale Evans co-hosted a B western film feature called Happy Trails Theater. I-40 Paradise, a sitcom with music set in a country bar, was the first-ever sitcom produced directly for a cable channel. Side By Side was a travel program featuring country stars, Country Sportsman was a fishing show featuring country stars, and Country Cooking was a Florence Henderson-hosted cooking show featuring... even more country stars.
Here's a twofer: Florence Henderson interviews Randy Travis in 1988 for her show, and reveals that in 1983 "Randy Ray" as he was known at the time made his debut auditioning for You Can Be a Star, a talent show hosted by Jim Ed Brown in which contestants competed for a record contract.
As for TNN's current lineup, it looks about the same as the old - Crook & Chase, classic episodes of Nashville Now, and a healthy helping of hokey. With MTV fully committed to Teen Mom, Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant, it sounds downright blessedly wholesome.
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