guitar party

ben lacy and tee dee young. herald-leader staff photo by pablo alcala.

ben lacy and tee dee young jamming at young’s club on second street. herald-leader staff photo by pablo alcala.

At the very moment that the University of Kentucky succumbed to Auburn on national television last week, an occasion marked by the collective groan from those watching the football game from the lounge at bd’s Mongolian Grill, Tee Dee Young and Ben Lacy sit down nearby and chat like they are lifelong friends.

But they aren’t.

Young and Lacy are two of Lexington’s most versed and versatile guitarists with decades of local performance experience and considerable national and international touring to their credit. Young has long served as Lexington’s prime ambassador of the blues, although his shows can easily incorporate touches of r&b and funk. Lacy is the technical pro – a one man troupe that plays lead and bass lines simultaneously and dabbles in everything from pop and rock covers to jazz and jam instrumentals.

So despite hailing from very different stylistic camps, it seemed only fitting the two guitarists would share a prominent outdoor concert bill for the Breeders’ Cup Festival. That, in turn, would suggest they are also longstanding pals. But when asked how long they have, in fact, known one another, both dissolve into an immediate fit of laughter.

“We don’t even know each other that well, which is weird because we both play out all the time,” Lacy said. “It’s good to cross paths for something like this.”

“I heard you at the Lyric Theatre for the Lexington Music Awards,” Young replied. “Ben’s great,” Young replied. “He’s a great guitar player. I went online after that and listened to him do a few songs and thought, ‘No one’s doing what he’s doing. He’s unique.”

Lacy paused a second to consider the compliment. “Unique,” he said. “I like that word.”

The admiration is reciprocal as Lacy is also at the ready to pour on the praise for Young, whose Monday night shows and jam sessions at his East Second St. club have long been one of Lexington’s foremost weeknight music traditions.

“Tee Dee is awesome,” Lacy said “Tee Dee is a killing guitar player. He brings that blues essence, that smoking guitar sound and is a hell of an entertainer on top of that. It’s a rare trait to do both of those well. You’ve got cats that can entertain pretty good but can’t really play. He does both and is an awesome singer, too. Tee Dee is a triple threat.”

A Lexington native, Young has been a guitarist since his teens and has been holding court at his club, Tee Dee’s, for over 30 years. But his music has often spread beyond local stages. He has shared bills with giants like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Albert King over the years and has competed in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. He will take part in the latter for the fourth time early in 2016 with a tour of Europe already confirmed for later in the year.

Here at home, though, he views the Breeders’ Cup Festival show with Lacy as a form of musical solidarity as well as a way to properly promote local talent at time when a lot of outside guests will be flocking in and around downtown.

“I think all the musicians in town should come together and be one big family,” Young said. “It doesn’t matter what style they play. Musicians are musicians. It doesn’t matter who you are.”

Lacy took up the guitar at age seven and, as his bio proudly states, quickly got on the wrong side of a classical guitar instructor after stating the teacher was out of tune. Despite appearances in various duo and collaborative settings – as well as concerts with guitar luminaries like Al DiMeola, Larry Coryell and Phil Keaggy – Lacy is perhaps best enjoyed on his own. There his singular approach to harmony, melody and bass designs – the combination of which regularly suggests multiple players at work – can be experienced.

“I’m going to make sure we come out rocking,” Lacy said of his Breeders’ Cup Festival performance plans. “I want to make sure we’re out there swinging. We don’t want anything too mellow. There will be a lot of funky improvs and some rock stuff, and Tee Dee’s got the blues covered, obviously. I mean, you’ve got to love a good outdoor show. It’s going to be high energy, high octane and a lot of fun.”

Tee Dee Young and Ben Lacy perform at 6:45 tonight at Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza, Main and N. Limestone as part of the Breeders’ Cups Festival. The performance in free.

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