Its early on-camera personalities were New York radio veterans Don Imus (then of WNBC), Frankie Crocker (then program director and DJ for WBLS), Scott Shannon (of WHTZ), Jon Bauman ("Bowzer" from Sha Na Na), Bobby Rivers, and Rita Coolidge.
Later VJs included Tim Byrd of WPIX-FM (the current day FM rebroadcast of WFAN), a station whose eclectic ballad-and-R&B oriented format mirrored that of VH-1, and Alison Steele ("The Nightbird" of WNEW-FM).
There was also a short-lived hour-long program called By Request in which viewers could call a 1–900 hotline number to request their videos.
Also in 1991, a popular morning program was introduced called Hits News & Weather that ran from 7 AM to 9 AM ET.
In true Imus style, he used a 1985 segment of his VH-1 show to jokingly call smooth-jazz icon Sade Adu a "grape" for her oval-shaped head.
Typical of VH1's very early programming was New Visions, a series which featured videos and in-studio performances by smooth jazz and classical and new-age bands and performers, including Spyro Gyra, Andy Narell, Mark Isham, Philip Glass, and Yanni.
It was later replaced in 1991 by a larger font, with the year the video was made added to the lower column that identified the label on which the album was released.
The format left room for occasional ad-libs by the VJ, a godsend for emcees such as Imus and O'Donnell.
From the start, Video Hits One was branded as an urban version of its sister/parent channel.
It played more jazz and R&B artists than MTV and had a higher rotation of urban-contemporary performers.
They would be seen on the Sunday morning two-hour music video block titled Sunday Brunch.
Once VH1 established itself a few years later, they catered to Top 40, adult contemporary, classic rock, and 1980s mainstream pop.