Ray Stevens had a vision, and the versatile entertainer saw it come to reality with the star-packed opening of his new Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom on January 10. Stevens formulated the CabaRay concept a few years ago, envisioning a dinner theater that could accommodate hundreds of fans in a state-of-the-art setting. After two years of construction and furnishing, Stevens is ready to open the theater to the public, with a grand opening celebration taking place January 18, 19 and 20.
The January 10 invitation-only event welcomed an array of Ray’s celebrity friends and industry colleagues, including Ricky Skaggs and wife Sharon White, Jeannie Seely, Bill Anderson, T.G. Sheppard and wife Kelly Lang, Steve Wariner and a host of others. Guests were treated to a sumptuous dinner, followed by Stevens’ performance, backed by a full orchestra and backup singers.
CabaRay itself is quite the showplace, classy and expertly detailed. The theater features dinner service for 500 guests in the main room, with beverage service for another 200 upstairs. The performance room walls serve as homages to many of Stevens’ artist friends and musical mentors, such as Chet Atkins, producer Fred Foster and record label head Shelby Singleton (who gave Stevens his first job in Nashville). Fans can also peruse a gift shop, located in the lobby.
Stevens plans to perform weekly dinner shows Thursday through Saturday evenings. He’s also looking to add Wednesday shows at some point and bring in special guests to perform at the theater. “I would love to perform here,” said singer Mandy Barnett on the pre-show red carpet. “It’s a beautiful room.” Stevens’ good friend T.G. Sheppard echoed that sentiment, adding that, “Anything Ray does always turns out successful. This is just an amazing place.” “This is something that Nashville has been needing for a long time,” adds Ricky Skaggs.
Stevens entertained the audience with a full set of hits that essentially chronicled his career, often sharing the stories behind the tunes. As he introduced one of his first releases, “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” inspired by a TV character of the same name, Stevens explained that the song was climbing the charts until he was informed of a slight snag. He had not acquired permission to use the character name and had to pull the tune from radio.
The show continued with Stevens’ wacky takeoffs “Ahab the Arab,” “Gitarzan,” “Shriner’s Convention,” “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” and others. He punctuated each song with the hilarious character voices that marked the original recordings. On the more serious side, Stevens showed his versatility and musicianship with the Grammy-winning “Misty,” the gospel favorite “Turn Your Radio On” and, naturally, “Everything Is Beautiful.”
Before the opening night festivities got underway, Stevens learned that Nashville Mayor Megan Barry had proclaimed January 10 “Ray Stevens Day,” in honor of the theater’s premiere. In a release, Stevens said that the honor was “especially meaningful, on the day I’m sharing my CabaRay Showroom with my family and friends in the music industry for the first time.”
Stevens’ CabaRay Showroom is certain to become the new hot spot on the Nashville entertainment landscape. “This whole process has been a real labor of love for me,” Stevens said in a release about the theater. “It took some time to get the building constructed and iron out all the kinks, but I’m thrilled to say we’re finally ready to open the doors to the public.”
Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom is located in the area of West Nashville at 5724 River Road. There is ample free parking for nearly 300 vehicles as well as tour buses.