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Hard work pays off. Just ask Tee Dee Young.
While the blues musician from Lexington’s historic Pralltown neighborhood can often be found across the country — and sometimes the world — performing, he also can be found at his club, the Bluegrass Progressive Club, on the corner of Second Street and Elm Tree Lane since the early 1980s.
Although the do-everything Young has found success over the last 36 years with the his club and music, it has come with much blood, sweat and tears shed.
Young first stumbled upon the building when he went to clubs on Deweese Street, a corridor he referred to as the “Beale Street of Lexington,” describing the area as being littered with blues and jazz clubs. Over the years most of the clubs have dissipated, with Tee Dee’s being one of the few holdovers along with the Lyric Theatre, which reopened in 2010 after decades of laying vacant.
Young would always park on the corner of Second and Elm, a spot he still regularly parks in, and one day noticed a for sale sign on the window. Following a call to the owner, Young secured a visit to inspect the building, which he described as a disaster, with holes in the ceiling and trees growing out of the floor inside.
“You’d rather stand outside in the rain then stand in here,” Young said. “There were holes all across the ceiling, so it would rain just as hard inside as it would out.”
With no money to his name and a daunting potential project ahead, Young didn’t know where to turn. Fortunately, he worked in construction at the time and his boss, Stanley Anderson, saw potential and wanted to give him a chance. Anderson ended up cosigning on the building, giving Young his chance to step up and make a living.
With his construction experience and the help of his five brothers, Young immediately began tackling the monumental task of fixing the space up. Working two jobs at the time — construction during the day and the occasional work fixing up and painting cars at a Mercedes garage — he would head to the building afterward, oftentimes working until 3 or 4 a.m. the next day, using what little money leftover from his paychecks after bills to buy lumber and other supplies for the renovations.
After nearly six months of arduous work, the building was ready to open. However, initial plans did not call for the space to be Tee Dee’s Bluegrass Progressive Club, as it is now.
According to Young, the plan was to lease the space to other businesses along with a few clubs, which he did before being coaxed into doing it all himself by his brothers, who helped Young to get all of the proper business licenses secured.
In its infancy the club sold soda, potato chips and hot dogs and acted as a practice space for Young and his band on Monday evenings, an occasion that has grown into a regular show for the last quarter century.
Young remembers leaving the front door open to practice with his blues band, and people being lured in from the streets by the siren sounds, the numbers growing week by week.
“We’ve been playing, no practicing, every Monday night since,” said Young. “And we still are.”
Adding to the Monday night allure and replacing the formerly served potato chips and hot dogs are a fish fry. Every week Young gets a bunch of fish to cook in his family’s special batter in a mobile barbecue pit located on a spacious patio on the backside of the club.
In addition to Young’s regular Monday night performances, the club also has karaoke on Wednesdays and occasional shows from the Origins Jazz Series, with the next being legendary organ player and Ray Charles’ collaborator Bobby Floyd on Nov. 17.
For much of his career Young has focused primarily on his music over his business, shutting down the club when he’d leave town to perform. However, Young has slowly been handing over the reigns to son Terrance as he comes of age.
If the last 40 years have proven anything, it’s that Tee Dee’s Bluegrass Progressive Club is here to stay no matter what curve balls are thrown their way, even as the landscape around them transforms.
If you go
Tee Dee’s Bluegrass Progressive Club
Where: 266 E. Second St., Lexington
Hours: 8 p.m.-midnight on Monday; 7 p.m.-midnight on Wednesday and 6 p.m.-midnight when a Origins Jazz Series show is scheduled.
Live music: Tee Dee’s band plays every Monday.
Signature drink: The Tee Dee special which is described as a mostly fruity drink with very little alcohol.