Valencia was a private social club for uptown teenagers. Conceived of and funded by local parents, it opened in 1948 and became an exclusive teen country club remembered fondly by members. At its peak in the 1960s, 1,200 teens belonged there. It featured an Olympic-size swimming pool, pool tables, tennis and basketball courts, a short-order snack bar, movie showings and music every weekend, and big dances on major holidays.
Practically every band in New Orleans played here. The small combos featured musicians such as Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, Ronnie Barron, Jerry Jumonville, Freddy Staehle, James Booker, Irving Bannister, and most of the Spiders. The big dances saw the likes of Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ernie K-Doe, Benny Spellman, Deacon John, Sugarboy Crawford and his Cane Cutters, Jessie Hill, and the Minit label’s whole roster. It was a slice of heaven for a music-loving kid.
Although the club made space on the bandstand for black musicians, it was less inclusive otherwise. Valencia members were white, and the club held an annual ball celebrating the Old South, complete with period dress and romantic representations of the Confederacy.
Ostensibly, Valencia was about keeping a close watch on the elite’s teenagers, but it wound up being a place to rendezvous for drinking excursions and mischief. On that front, it couldn’t compete with bars, cars, and the opposite sex. Attendance declined over the years, and Valencia closed in 1988. Several attempts to revive the club to its former glory have so far been unsuccessful.