In February of 1981, six months before MTV hit the airwaves, FM-TV launched in Colorado on public television’s KBDI Channel 12. A year later, the music video showcase became “Teletunes” and for almost two decades, it helped shape the way many saw and heard music. Among fans, its impact can still be felt today.
Growing up without cable, Teletunes was how Benji McPhail kept up with new music.
“They played all the Michael Jackson and Talking Heads videos, but they were cooler than that,” said McPhail, program director for The Colorado Sound. “They actually played a lot more when it came to a diverse playlist. So it was a good way to get introduced to new music — the cool, kind of weird stuff. I mean, they were playing The Residents. They were playing Ebn Ozn. And you would never see that on MTV.”
It was that risk-taking style that made McPhail originally want to become a VJ. He saw it as the best way to play a role in showing audiences new types of music and new artists.
“That’s why I still have that passion, because the people that were the hosts on there, they looked like they were having the time of their lives,” he said. “And I’m like, ‘Man, if I could get paid to introduce people to cool music, hang out with rock stars and go to shows, I will have made it.’”
Colorado Sound listeners can still hear the show’s influence, McPhail says, not only in the airing of certain songs like Trio’s “Boom Boom” (a Teletunes favorite), but in the eclectic mix of artists and genres showcased.