Nashville has a new, first-rate 750-seat dinner theater showroom: CabaRay.
Located opposite the popular Nashville West shopping center exit, Ray Stevens will welcome concertgoers three nights a week at the start.
The 78-year-old Stevens, who built the 35,000 square foot facility—complete with management offices, gift shop, soundstage, and recording studio—has only performed a handful of dates in the past few years aside from his wildly successful PBS show.
In front of VIP guests Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, which was declared Ray Stevens Day by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, the two-time Grammy winner revisited 60 years of music in the 90-minute show.
Longtime Nashville musician and comedian Kevin King served as emcee for the pre-show, which included read remarks by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn.
“I’m very proud to accept these and live it up to midnight because at midnight I turn into a side-man,” Stevens from the stage of the accolades and his venture. “I’ve worked in so many venues, I wanted to build a place that I thought was the culmination of all that I would like in a place. Right or wrong, this is it!”
Also from the stage, Stevens acknowledged manager Don Williams in addition to his own inspiration behind creating the venue, which includes custom wallpaper with photos of old recording sessions with Chet Atkins, Shelby Singleton, Jerry Kennedy, Owen Bradley, Fred Foster and Billy Sherrill.
“I wanted to remind people that Nashville is Music City USA,” said Stevens of the photos on the walls in a rare serious moment during the show. “The Grand Ole Opry has been the backbone of country music. But when the recording studios decided to locate here, that to me was the crowning touch. Owen Bradley’s the Quonset Hut or Chet Atkins’ RCA A. Without the studios we wouldn’t be music city. The musicians came here to work sessions—I did. Especially with Mercury, RCA, Columbia, and Decca. It was kinda dicey in the beginning in. I’ve heard stories that Texas was vying for the business from all the major record companies but Nashville won out. I just think a big thank you is due to all those producers and musicians who started it all.”
Among the titles, Stevens performed with a black-tie orchestra spanned gospel’s “Turn Your Radio On” to the politically incorrect “Ahab the Arab” and sexually deviant “It’s Me Again Margaret” and “The Streak.”
Poignant masterpieces highlighted Stevens’ genius in the introductory “Nashville,” alongside “Misty” and “Everything Is Beautiful,” which received a standing ovation from the crowd, including Ralph Emery, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, John Berry, the Gatlin Brothers, Steve Wariner, TG Sheppard, Bill Anderson, Kelly Lang, T. Graham Brown, Don Schlitz, Johnny Lee, Lee Roy Parnell, Jeannie Seely, Mandy Barnett, Fred Foster, Harold Bradley, Bobby Goldsboro, Teea Goans, Charlie Monk, Bill Cody, and more.
Signature slapstick vocal wailings were featured on “Along Came Jones,” “Guitarzan,” Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” and “Jeremiah Peabody’s Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving…Green & Purple Pills.”
After four faux, comedic encores, and the obligatory “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” Stevens indulged himself in one last cover title, “Goodnight Irene,” wrapping an entertaining and worthwhile endeavor among the Nashville music scene.