Terence Young started playing music young. He took up the guitar at age 10, learning from several of his uncles who played gospel music in his small hometown of Elko, located between Augusta and Orangeburg. “I just picked it up naturally,” Terence says. “I’d mostly just sit and listen and learned that way.” He started playing seriously in front of audiences at 15 while touring the quartet gospel circuit with his uncles in small towns and major cities throughout the country.
His uncles’ gospel quartet also inspired Terence’s love of jazz. “I heard them play an instrumental of Yes, Jesus Loves Me. After I heard that song, it inspired me to do jazz versions of music,” he says. That early love of jazz has strongly influenced Terence’s 40-year music career.
After graduating from Williston-Elko High School, Terence moved directly into making music as a living, sliding into the R&B-jazz world. Today, Terence is widely known in the Midlands and far beyond as a guitar firebrand who pulls his musical influences from smooth jazz, R&B, and classic rock. Terence has shared stages with greats like Roberta Flack, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, and Al Jarreau. Recognized for his command of a wide diversity of music genres, Terence plays more than 120 gigs a year, both solo and with his Finesse Band, ranging from large concert venues and weddings to festivals and intimate music venues.
Terence calls the guitar the most passionate instrument to play, emphasizing the emotion it requires. “Music is a spirit, and if I don’t feel the songs when I perform, my audience won’t feel them either. Guitar is that outlet.”
Terence is most well known for playing Prince’s Purple Rain, but his set lists vary based on the audience and the venue. “I do cover songs and some originals. I do some covers that I adapt to my audience.” The music of Earth, Wind and Fire; Michael Jackson; and Prince frequently shows up in his shows, as do covers of fan favorites like Tears for Fears, Sweet Home Alabama, and Sweet Child O’ Mine. When playing these well-known hits, Terence often adds in riffs people may know from other songs for a note of the unexpected.
Terence shares his music beyond stage performances through the 14 CDs he has released over the years, featuring both originals and covers. The most recent debuted in April 2023. The theme from this latest album is Terence’s fan favorites. “These are songs my fans enjoy hearing me play in concerts. This is why it’s called ‘The Playlist,’” Terence says. He decides what to put on his albums based on what fans enjoy hearing him play again and again.
Terence is widely acclaimed beyond just local stages and venues. Terence tells the story of when he was part of the band called on to pinch hit for The Auntie Karen Legends of Concert featuring Ashford & Simpson. Ashford & Simpson’s full band was stuck in a major snowstorm in New York and couldn’t get to the performance at the Koger Center in Columbia.
“They had a sold-out show at the Koger Center. They came down a day early to participate in The Auntie Karen Legends of Master Class, but their band had gotten snowed in elsewhere,” Terence says. “The Foundation called me at 11 on a Friday morning, and the show was at 7 that night. We pulled it together to play the whole show with them. They were pleasantly surprised and, I think, impressed.”
Around Columbia, Terence can be found on the schedule at the Township Auditorium, the Harbison Theatre, the Lexington Icehouse Amphitheater, as well as local festivals. In addition to solo gigs, Terence plays with his party band, The Finesse Band, around the state and around the country. Eric Mayweather, the longtime lead singer, says, “We do country, jazz, blues, beach music, classic rock, whatever is suitable for the event. We travel all over the United States. We’re really well rounded, which is what separates our band.”
He and Terence met more than 20 years ago through mutual friends who thought he and Terence would work well together. Eric and Terence hit it off immediately. Eric says, “Terence is very detail oriented, somewhat of a perfectionist. It has to be done right. There’s a difference in just playing and putting in the effort for quality playing. Terence is just a great musician and a good, good person as well.”
Teedra Pope has worked with Terence on the business side of his operation for more than 20 years. She says her appreciation of Terence’s music comes from watching the people who come to see him play. “Terence has a unique way of translating his guitar playing so the notes almost sound like words. That blows people away,” Teedra says. “He takes a song that you’ve been listening to your entire life, and by the time he’s done with it, it’s like a brand new interpretation, like you’re hearing it for the first time. It takes people back down memory lane to their childhood or a happy time in their life.”
One aspect of playing music that Terence appreciates most is the loyal base of fans who come to see him play. He enjoys meeting the people who come to his shows and wants to get to know them. Teedra says, “People love it so much that they always come back. They bring new people with them. His playing style is so genuine with the audience, and he’s very personable with everybody. He’s developed a reputation as not just a great guitarist but as a humble, generous, and open human being.”
That generosity of spirit around music reaches far beyond the stages where he performs. While Terence has a public presence locally and nationally, he also has a more private persona that is focused on giving back and bringing young people up through the ranks of the music world. Whether he is advising young people about music careers or just exposing them to the joys and fun of appreciating music, Terence shines when working with young people.
“Some kids have never heard live music,” Terence says. “Some kids have never seen a guitar. I’m never sure what to expect and what can get kids dancing.”
Karen Alexander-Banks, executive director of the Auntie Karen Foundation, says Terence has been a longtime supporter of her nonprofit group, which showcases artists in the Midlands with a mission to empower, enlighten, and educate through the arts. Terence and Karen are also old friends who have played music together since the late 1990s.
“The Auntie Karen Foundation started a program called Artrepreneur in which we have seasoned artists teaching their skill sets to kids,” says Karen. “Terence was one of the first artists to do that program that started in 2003. The following year we started a program called “Legends of …” in which we bring in Grammy award-winning music legends to perform a concert and hold a master class for young people.”
In 2006, the Auntie Karen Foundation started the Auntie Karen Allstar Band. This group of South Carolina-based musicians also played during the “Legends of” concerts. Terence was the band’s musical director for 15 years.
Karen says Terence genuinely loves working with young students and frequently visits schools to share his love of music. The Auntie Karen Foundation recently partnered with Richland School District Two with their Richland Two Rocks Show that brought in fifth graders from across the district for two days. Terence was the headliner.
Terence performed several familiar songs, including Rock with You, Can You Stand the Rain, and Before I Let Go. “Those kids rocked the house,” Karen says. “You would naturally think the teachers would know the songs, but the kids knew most of the words. That was probably my favorite moment, seeing the kids singing. Not only were they exposed to that kind of music, but they knew the words.”
Many of these visits to schools have had lasting impacts on students who have been inspired by Terence’s talent and generosity. “I met a young man when I went to his elementary school, and he now plays for a living. He’s the hottest guitar player in the area,” Terence says. Another student living in Atlanta has written for Bruno Mars. Then there are the parents of another student who have thanked Terence for introducing their son to music. This young man now plays gigs around town to help make enough money for college.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing artists through this journey, and Terence is one of them,” Karen says.
Terence is also known in music circles as an influential mentor to younger musicians. They often seek out his advice because he has had a long and successful career without having a national recording contract. Teedra says, “Terence is very, very generous with sharing his stage and recommending people for shows and giving advice. His door is always open.”
Being a full-time musician — and one who also gives his time generously to the community — means Terence must be an astute businessman. “A lot of great musicians just don’t know the business. You have to be in the business to learn the business,” he says. “I started seeing how others do business and often learned from their mistakes.” He shares those lessons freely with others, too.
The biggest lessons Terence likes to share focus on being serious about music, having passion for the music, and practicing the music. But most importantly, it’s loving what you do.
“I get paid for what I’d do for free,” Terence says.