Terrance Ray Young was about 13 years old when he began watching Harrison Coleman's fingers pull the blues out of the strings of a guitar while sitting near the railroad tracks in Pralltown.
Coleman sat in the same spot almost daily along with his drinking buddies who played the spoons and blew the jug. Young sat there, too, soaking it all in.
"The guitar attracted me to him," Young said recently. "Just the sound of it. It was amazing. I wound up watching him, basically every day. My mom said you need to stop hanging out there with those old men."
After a few days of seeing Young hang around, Coleman asked if the boy wanted to learn to play the guitar, and Young eagerly replied, "Yes!"
Coleman handed his guitar to Young and told him to take it home and practice.
A half a century later, Coleman's generosity and bare-bones instructions helped to create Tee Dee Young, a very gifted guitarist who along with his band holds the title of 2011 Best Blues Band in Kentucky and 2011 King of Beale Street Blues.
Young, 58, has owned Tee Dee's, a blues club at 266 East Second St., for more than 30 years and performs there Monday nights with Tee Dee's Band — Bruce Smith, keyboards; Dan Jackson, saxophone; Billy Lipton, bass; and Gus Johnson, drums. They dispense some of the best blues music in the city, state and nation.
Young quickly learned to play the borrowed instrument, and modeled his style after the old Muddy Waters blues he heard Coleman play.
"I only heard him play one or two songs, but he played them well," Young said. "He would say, 'Play that guitar, boy. You need to fire down on the guitar.'"
The guitar was an escape from a life of poverty.
During his early years, Young was the fourth of six boys born to Rebecca and Leonard A. Young Sr.
Young said his parents drank a lot in the beginning and separated. Family members cared for two of his older brothers, and the oldest married early and started his own family. That left Young and two younger siblings living with his mother and struggling in a one bedroom house on Prall Street.
When he was 10, his mother joined a church and never drank again. His father followed suit soon after and the family was reunited.
Young said he has never drank alcohol, smoked or abused drugs and doesn't plan to start.
Young credits his father's gospel singing in church and his brother George's ability to teach him chord structure for sealing the deal for his future career.
"He was a genius," Young said of his brother. "He took music in school and could play all the instruments."
At his brother's urging, Young joined his first band at age 14, starting with a group comprised mostly of his brothers and progressing to a band that got paid for gigs.
Because of his youth, Young said the band members would have to bring him home after playing at his mother's insistence. There were times when members of the bands were ushered to a separate room at breaks to avoid having the underage members milling about the bar area.
Time after time, bands he joined would split up, mainly because of corrupt managers and a lack of knowledge on the musicians' part of the music industry.
As members of the K.G. Band, Young said he and his brother played in Gary, Ind., as the opening act for the Jackson Five.
"They weren't famous then," Young said. "They were out playing like we were. But they were sharp and stepping and my brother said we need to be doing what they are doing."
They also opened for Denise LaSalle in Lexington, and for James Brown when Young recalls Brown's entire band was arrested.
"My brother (George) was the one who read all the sheet music," Young said of the evening when he was a kid that they backed up Brown. "He taught everybody their parts. He told me the chords I would play and showed Russell (his younger brother) his part on the drums. He would teach us like that on the spot."
George Young played saxophone so well, Brown offered to take him on the road with him, Young said.
The band also opened for Ike and Tina Turner at Lexington's La Flame nightclub, Young said, as well as the Barclays and Isaac Hayes.
Although he did graduate from Tates Creek High School, it was difficult, returning from weekend engagements just in time to head off to class.
Still, he was doing what he loved.
By the time he was 20, he had played at venues such as New York's The Cotton Club. And that was the start. Over his career, he has opened for some of the biggest names in the business.
Young's current band has three members who have been together for decades.
"We are one of the oldest bands in Lexington," Young said. "We changed out a few people because a lot of them have died and moved on. We didn't have a choice."
The band's name, however, has changed from Spontaneous Combustion to Scandalous to Tee Dee's Band.
While he has enjoyed some success, Young said the music scene in Lexington needs to be a lot more supportive of its home-grown talent.
With the changes that are occurring downtown, including new entertainment spots, the Distillery District and a new hotel, Lexington leaders need to embrace its burgeoning cosmopolitan and urban image, said Young's manager Barry Witbeck.
"Lexington needs to be incorporating the local musicians and artists in special events," Witbeck said. "That would make Lexington bigger than life. It would say there is more here than horses and bourbon."
Still, Young is not waiting for that to happen.
He will be releasing a new CD this fall, entitled Still Dreaming the Blues.
And he and the band will compete in the 2013 International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January and February.
Sponsored by The Blues Foundation, the challenge features blues musicians from throughout the world and thrusts the best acts onto a national and international stage.
If they win, Young and the band will be traveling more than they will be in Lexington.
That can only be described as our loss.
Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.