Tee Dee Young picked up the guitar as a young boy and hasn’t put it down since. Growing up in Lexington, Tee Dee was mentored on guitar by an elderly musician, and picked up his vocal skills from his father, who was a gospel singer.
Tee Dee’s singular blues style has made him a favorite of blues fans, both here in Lexington and on stages across America and Europe. On Monday nights, Tee Dee and his band play to an appreciative crowd at his club on East Second Street in downtown Lexington, which is where Kentucky Life caught his performance on camera.
Young recalled the beginnings of the Tee Dee’s Blues Club. He bought a building and renovated it. He recalled the poor condition of the building when he first got it. “You’d rather stay outside than in the building because it was raining in the building more than it was outside,” he said with a laugh.
“Monday nights at the club we started rehearsing … and one or two people came in. And then it started growing, and the next thing you know we got 20,” he said. “Next thing I knew, I had to get me a bartender.”
Young grew up in the Pralltown community of Lexington. “On the railroad tracks there was a wall. So all the old fellows down there sat on the wall, and they drank and played their guitars, jugs, and spoons,” he recalled.
Young admired the playing of a man named Mr. Harrison. “One day he gave me his guitar and said you’re going to play this guitar,” Young said. “I took it home and my mom made me take it back.” Then Mr. Harrison came to the house and explained that he gave the guitar to the young boy so he could practice.
He remembered the older men telling him, “Fall on that guitar!” He learned later what the expression meant. “When you’re leading on the guitar, that means you put your heart into what you’re doing. That is falling. That means you’re really putting it down.”
Young said many of his songs are about his life, and he said he wants the audience to be entertained. “As long as I’m making you happy, and I can see it and I can feel it—I’m a strange guy. I can feel it. If you’re in pain, I can feel your pain, and I want that pain to go away, you know? I want to make you happy.”
Young said some notes give him goosebumps. “Some people say you go into a zone,” he said.
Young gives credit to the musicians he plays with – Gus Johnson, Cory Kennedy, Dan Jackson and Billy Linton — for his success. “The fellows that have been with me deserve credit too. I couldn’t have done it by myself,” he said.
With the blues, Young said he can express himself. “Especially when I’m playing the guitar, what I feel is what I play. It’s not mapped out. It might come any kind of different way. If I’m feeling it I just deliver it.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2111, which originally aired on March 26, 2016. Watch the full episode.