Chicago and the Folk Music Revival, 1957-1970: A Tale of Two Key Figures – Ray Flerlage and Win Stracke

Two Key Figures in the Revival

Cultural movements such as the Folk Music Revival do not occur spontaneously, of course. They are human creations. Two crucial figures in Chicago’s Revival were Raeburn (Ray) Flerlage and Winfred (Win) Stracke. Ray Flerlage and Win Stracke, each in his own way, helped promote public awareness of America’s folk music, both in Chicago and throughout the country.

Raeburn Flerlage            

Ray Flerlage (1915-2002) can be considered the movement’s documentarian. A tireless photographer, Flerlage took hundreds of photos of performers in the city’s many folk and blues clubs. (His full oeuvre of photographs consists of over 40,000 items, which are now housed at the Chicago History Museum.) Flerlage and his camera were there, visually recording the early years of both the Old Town School and the University of Chicago Folk Festival. Flerlage’s photographs are the most extensive record of the Folk Music Revival as it took shape in Chicago. The following timeline traces Ray Flerlage’s upbringing and professional life.

Win Stracke 

Win Stracke (1908-1991), by contrast, was one of the Revival’s main visionaries. Not one to shy from a microphone and sing a folk tune, Stracke also recognized folk music’s potential to build community through active participation in the folk process. To that end, he played the critical role in founding the Old Town School, whose main mission was to foster the teaching and learning of folk music. The following timeline highlights the main occasions in Win Stracke’s early life and later professional career.