Born Cross Eyed: Lexington’s own Grateful Dead

By Matt Wickstrom

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The sounds of The Grateful Dead echoed throughout Cosmic Charlie’s on Saturday night as local cover band Born Cross Eyed celebrated its 24-year anniversary of honoring The Dead’s illustrious library of music.

Born Cross Eyed frontman and self-proclaimed “Fake Jerry Garcia,” Lee Owen, said he grew an affinity for The Grateful Dead while he was a student at UK. His passion for The Dead led him and his friends to found the band, which is named after a Grateful Dead song. Cosmic Charlie’s, is also named after a Dead song.

“Never in a million years did I think we’d still be together after 24 years,” Owen said. “We started the band in college because we loved The Dead and Lexington didn’t have a Dead cover band.”

Born Cross Eyed began its anniversary show by performing “Cold Rain and Snow,” the song the band opened with at its first show — on a 25-cent draft night at the Jefferson Davis Inn, where guitarist Kirk Harrod formerly worked.

Starting with “Candyman,” the third song of the night, Born Cross Eyed was joined onstage by Jenny Adkins on backup vocals, who accompanied the band for several more songs throughout the night. Adkins is also a part of Owsley County, another local band and one of Owen’s several side projects.

Dino English, occasional Born Cross Eyed drummer and full-time member of nationally touring Grateful Dead cover band Dark Star Orchestra, is also a member of Owsley County, though he wasn’t present for the group’s show on Saturday night.

Late in the first set, the septet broke into a rendition of “Run Run Rudolph,” which Ron “Pigpen” McKerman led The Dead in singing at Madison Square Garden almost 34 years ago.

After a set break, the members of Born Cross Eyed reclaimed the stage and kicked off the night’s final set of music with The Dead’s 1978 hit “Shakedown Street.” Fan-favorite “Eyes of the World” came next, which was then followed by a combination of songs that included “Alligator,” “Terrapin Station” and “Cream Puff War.”

“Turn on Your Love Light” followed the improvisational, free-flowing jam, as well as “Box of Rain,” which The Dead performed at Chicago’s Soldier Field this summer in its final show together  on the “Fare Thee Well” 50-year anniversary tour.

Owen hosts a weekly night of Grateful Dead music every Monday at Cosmic Charlie’s, called “Grateful Monday.” Each week Owen performs for a small cover charge from 9 p.m. to midnight with a rotating cast of local musicians and Grateful Dead enthusiasts.

“Their music is so organic and distinguished that it truly stands the test of time,” Owen said. “It’s helped our longevity as well. With such a diverse library to pull from, we’re always playing something different, making every show different than the last.”