August 1, 2014 10:20 AM

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The date was August 1, 1981; it was a day that forever changed the music industry when a little channel called MTV first launched on cable.

Les Garland, the guy who was part of the team responsible for putting the station on air, joined us on the phone to talk about the 33rd anniversary since MTV first exploded on television sets across the country.

He told us about the origin of the station and how the idea of a 24-hour music channel came up about a year before the station’s official launch.

“The idea of music on television popped up – I don’t think any one person could ever stand up and say ‘I thought of that’ – anyway, it really was a wacky idea back then,” said Les, adding that the station was funded by American Express and Warner Communications in a joint effort to get into the cable business. “It was a long shot. Putting music on television 24 hours a day seemed pretty crazy,” said Les.

For its official launch day, Les told us he wasn’t on premise when the station fired off, but another team in New Jersey pulled the trigger and announcer John Lack said the words “ladies and gentleman, rock and roll” introducing the first music video, “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles.

So when did Les realize they had a world-wide phenomenon on their hands? He said they knew they had a huge hit about two years after the first launch.

“I think the real turning point, probably in terms of awareness, was the very famous ‘I Want My MTV campaign,” he said.

One of the artists that became synonymous with the channel was of course the King of Pop. So how did Michael Jackson play a part in MTV’s success?

“I think it was the perfect timing for MTV and Michael Jackson to come together,” he said. “When Michael passed, I only did one interview, I was asked that question – ‘did Michael Jackson make MTV or did MTV make Michael Jackson?’ – I think both made both.”

Listen to our complete interview with Les Garland about the launch of MTV, choosing the original MTV VJs and more in the clip below.

The Full Audio Interview

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