Chicago and the Folk Music Revival, 1957-1970: A Tale of Two Key Figures – Ray Flerlage and Win Stracke
Chicago has long been famous for the music it has produced, most notably the blues. Less appreciated is the city’s contribution to one of the largest popular culture movements of the first three decades of post-World War II period: the so-called Folk Music Revival. As a counterpoint to – and a rebellion against – commercial pop music of the 1950s and 1960s, this so-called “revival,” which spanned the period from 1957 through the 1960s, celebrated the traditional music of “the folk”: the masses of uncelebrated Americans who throughout the country’s history had developed their own local and regional musical styles and songs. Today, one does not have to look far to see the lasting impact of the Folk Music Revival. Such related styles as country blues, bluegrass, “contemporary” folk, and Americana enjoy wide popularity.
Although this musical inheritance came mostly from rural areas and small towns, the Revival was largely an urban phenomenon, with Chicago being in the forefront, along with other large cities, including New York and Boston.
This project focuses on the life and contributions of two key figures in Chicago’s folk scene during this period: its main “documentarian,” Raeburn (Ray) Flerlage, who left a vast visual legacy of performers and venues, and the “visionary” Winfred (Win) Stracke, who co-founded an institution devoted to teaching and learning folk music, the Old Town School of Folk Music.