In February 1985, channel 66 (with its studio based in Framingham, MA and its tower based in Hudson, MA) premiered on TV in homes all over New England. The first music video played was “Abracadabra” by Steve Miller Band.
Created by radio legends John Garabedian (a veteran of WORC, WMEX, WGTR, and WBCN among others) and Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg (a veteran of WBOS, WMEX, and WRKO among others), V66 wasn’t just going to be another TV channel, it was going to be radio on TV. MTV had premiered a few years earlier, but cable was only just starting to become available in New England at this time, whereas V66 was a free over-the-air UHF TV channel that anyone could watch. Combining their collective experiences in radio, Garabedian and Ginsburg’s vision for the music videos was to combine KISS 108-FM (top 40 pop) with WBCN 104.1-FM (rock). VJs such as David O’Leary, Perry Stone, Mary Jo, Ian O’Malley and Bill Stephens gave the viewers what they wanted to see AND hear!
At the time that V66 premiered, Boston was already a bastion for great music. By 1985, some of the biggest music superstars had emerged from Boston: Aerosmith, The Cars, and The J. Geils Band. V66 was in the right place at the right time to showcase the existing superstars, as well as the rising local bands: ‘Til Tuesday, Extreme, and The Del Fuegos just to name a few. Several local bands without record deals were able to produce music videos and if they were good enough, V66 would gladly play their music videos in between the popular music superstars of that era such as Madonna, Prince, and Van Halen. The variety of music (major and indie, old and new, rap and rock, metal and disco) appealed to music fanatics all over New England!
In the summer of 1985, V66 was the only non-cable TV channel besides ABC to broadcast the historic Live Aid concert. They also broadcast live events and concerts all over the Boston area. The fans on the street, dancing at the clubs and calling in to win contests became as much a part of the channel as the music being played. V66 had an immediate impact on the Boston community, as well the music industry itself.
In 1986, in an attempt to increase ratings (which were measured by 30 and 60 minutes blocks and not by 3-5 minute music video blocks), V66 increased their programming with magazine shows, sports highlights, music profiles and syndicated programs. In the summer of 1986, after several attempts to keep it going, V66 got sold to the Home Shopping Channel. In September 1986, V66 signed off and Home Shopping took over the channel 66 airwaves. While V66 wasn’t around for very long, the influence was immense. Fans never forgot in the decades since. In 2008, production began on the V66 documentary Life on the V: The Story of V66 directed by Eric Green.
(by Eric Green)