LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – Every type of music is rooted in one genre, the blues.
There is one Lexington blues artist and business owner who embodies the blues, and always used his music to bring people together.
That’s why Lexington native, Tee Dee Young, has just been inducted into Kentucky’s Music Hall of Fame.
Young may be the “Best kept secret in Lexington.”
It all started for Young back in the 60s, when he was 13 years old and picked up his first guitar.
“I was playing on a railroad track with a bunch of old men,” Young said. “I can play by ear. I just listen and watch, and I play it on the guitar. Once I did that, my brother decides let’s put a band together.”
They called themselves, “The Young Brothers” and the band hit the road.
“We opened for Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Al Green,” Young said.
Life on the road showed Young where the world drew a line, even one music couldn’t cross.
“It was rough times for black musicians,” Young said. “We had to use the bathrooms ahead of time and we didn’t understand why. Now, we know it was because some of the little towns we’d go through, we found out Black people weren’t allowed to stop there. That was on the Chittlin trail.”
While on the road, Young met the great B.B. King. Right before King died, he told Young something great was about to happen to him.
“I said, ‘B.B. when? I’ve been waiting for a long time,'” Young said. “Right after that was when I toured Europe.
After seeing the world, Young came back to Lexington. Fast forward to the 80s, he saw a building off Elm Tree Lane and was inspired by a business idea.
“My brother had a club around the corner, so I would park in front of this building and walk around the corner,” Young said. “I called the guy and asked, “How much you want for the building? I didn’t have a quarter to my name, but he told me the price and I said, ‘You asking for too much.’ Then he lowered the price, and I was up a creek.”
Young said the idea of a music lounge was more of an “accident”, since he had other plans for the building originally.
“Then my brother come up and said, ‘Let’s put a club in there.'”
That’s when Tee Dee’s Lounge was born.
It sat in the heart of the most soulful scene in Lexington, surrounded by other music clubs, on what was formally known as Dewey St.
Today, it’s the only one left, which is a big reason why Young always fought for his right to say. It’s also Young’s way of preserving the history of Dewey St., which he hopes will be restored to its original name one day.
“People trying to shut us down,” Young said. “They were developing the area. They wanted in and they wanted me out.”
When faced with discrimination, Young turned to the one thing that gave him purpose, his guitar.
“When I have a problem, this solves it. This calms me,” Young said.
Even today, Young still faces challenges with the evolving, music scene.
“It makes me stronger,” Young said. “It makes me go after my instrument and the blues is really going to come out of me now.”
However, there is one music organization that knows Young’s true impact, The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.
Jessica Blankenship, executive director at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, said she nominated Young and received a unanimous “yes” vote.
“He is Kentucky music, really,” Blankenship said. “Probably one of the most influential impact artists we’ve got at the hall of fame.”
Blankenship said she is inspired by Young’s collaboration with young musicians, even giving them the chance to perform right on his stage.
“That’s how you build better musicians for tomorrow,” Blankenship said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re from the holler of eastern Kentucky or the plains of western Kentucky, you’re gonna hear his music, and it’s gonna move you.”
In January, Young received his inductee award right on his stage inside Tee Dee’s Lounge.
“To get that is a blessing,” Young said. “It means a lot. To Lexington, it sends a strong message. Things are changing.”
Young gave his trophy to his son, Trevon Young, as a sign of encouragement.
“He doesn’t know how good he is,” Young said. “He’s in a town that’s tough to make it in music.”
To that point, Young has gotten into philanthropy, having just started “The Tee Dee Young Foundation”, where he helps youth develop as musicians and get a higher education.
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“I think if we give out these scholarships, encourage these kids, and I think we can heal some of the problems we have in the community,” Young said.
Young continues to perform every Monday night starting at 8 p.m. at Tee Dee’s Lounge, surrounded by his son and lifelong friends.
Tonya Fogle, Councilmember for the First District of Lexington, has known Young since she was a teenager and said Young’s music and scholarship foundation will bring transformation to the First District.
“Tee Dee holds that candle, that light that brings us back together to remind us of our heritage. Our ancestry,” Fogle said.
To reach out to Tee Dee’s Public Relations Manager for bookings or partnering with his foundation, reach Endia Harvey at Teedeeyoung1@gmail.com or call 859-339-8842.