The Old White Club at The Greenbrier
In April 1948, The Greenbrier re-opened to great fanfare following its use as a WWII army hospital and subsequent remodeling and redecoration. During a week of extravangent parties attended by notable personalities including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bing Crosby, John F. Kennedy and three of his sisters, the property unveiled for the first time its now signature Dorothy Draper decor as well as now legendary Old White Club.
In 1970, Carleton Varney oversaw a major expansion and redecoration of the space dominated by ten spectacular custom chandeliers. After the Old White Club closed in 2007 those ten chandeliers were put into storage until 2010 when they re-emerged in the Casino Club at The Greenbrier. Today, guests can enjoy the traditions begun in the Old White Club in 42 Below!
Just a mention of that name still brings a smile and nod of approval from the listener. “Who were they?” asks the younger crowd. “A legend and tradition” is the answer.
For 40 years, The Populaires were a Greenbrier tradition performing nightly in The Old White Club. The group was founded in New York City in 1946 by four ex-GI’s - Mike Powers, Chuck Bills, Bill Sloane, and Bill Walz - and was featured on the Paul Whiteman and Arthur Godfrey television shows. Popular at many major hotels, The Populaires were originally hired to christen a new dance floor at The Greenbrier in April 1948. The rest is history: They were hired here for 41 seasons!
The musicians were tremendous and well-known. Founder Bill Walz was a fine bassist, vocalist, arranger and composer; Kenny Martin was a superior trombonist and vocalist who sang with Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey. The group continually updated material to keep up with the times and never lost their standards of tone, pitch, and good listening for four generations of fans. In 1988, the group retired leaving behind many wonderful memories.
Recognizing this incredible era in history, The Greenbrier hosted a recognition and dedication ceremony to The Populaires on July 4, 2014. Appropriately, this ceremony was held at 42 Below in the Casino Club to christen a new dance floor and a new era at The Greenbrier. In attendance were Bill Walz, founding member of The Populaires, with Unique, his trusted canine companion, and John, his son, and Craig Martin and Ken Martin, sons of Kenny Martin. Framed memorabilia of The Populaires was dedicated to the delight of family and friends while their song "Fabulous Shack" played in the background.
"Fabulous Shack" was written by Bill Walz and performed by The Populaires for President Eisenhower’s North American Summit Conference Visit in 1956:
It’s a fabulous shack in the hills of West Virginia,
Where you golf all day, goof all night
It’s a place to relax, rest your aching back, relax, relax, relax.
You can ride, swim or dance, relive your old romance.
If you find that your pivot digs a dilly of a divot,
Sam Snead will fix your stance.
You will never, never tire of the old Greenbrier
Get higher than a kite in the old, Old White.
You can lose your cares with The Populaires,
And dance away the night.
You will never forget all the fine folks you met.
At the old Greenbrier in the hills of West Virginia,
Just a stone’s throw from the Chessie track!