There was a book written in 1971 about a singing group who lived on Downey Street in San Francisco, neighborhood friends who got together to sing acapella style. The name of the book was titled Jokers Wild. The book passed out of time and out of print and was lost except in memory now, perhaps the last copies having been left somewhere forgotten within the passages during life’s many moves and transitions.
There were five members of this group, Wayne, Frank, Ricky, Chris and Eddie. There was a picture of them on the rooftop of the apartment building next door to Wayne’s house in the book. The songs that they sang were mainly the soul harmony hits that were played on the radio back then, by the Temptations and the Miracles.
The author of this book was a young aspiring writer who wanted to capture the flavor of the neighborhood at that time, and he also included some photographs of the Street that would accompany the text of the book, a few of them have a copy of it. Who this writer was no one can remember now because it was so long ago.
As for the guys in the group, fate as it always does, played its part in shaping the way things would turn out in the future. For some the hand of fate was not so kind, and for the others destiny led them to better things. The decisions we make at the critical times in life define the journey’s outcome no matter the circumstances.
One day around ten years ago when I was still working Downtown in the city, I ran into Rickey while I was walking down Market Street. He said that he’d just gotten released from prison and that he was living in a halfway house hoping to find a job and make the transition back into the mainstream. I didn’t ask him what he went in for.
Shortly after that I met Linda Peete, and old friend and neighbor on the same stretch of Market street. She told me that Eddie had passed away a few months back; he apparently had some health problems that he couldn’t overcome. They were unable to get in touch with any of us since we’d all moved away.
As for Frank and Wayne, they made the decision to leave home when they were old enough back in the seventies, and they both enlisted in the U.S. Navy. They each went on to long and fruitful military careers and ultimately became leaders, mentors, raised their own families and established themselves as solid and stable members of society.
We heard word that Donald had also met an untimely demise, and the circumstances surrounding his passing are vague at best. The rumor that he was shot seems to be the most reliable source of what happened to him. Perhaps someday we will find out what the real story is, or most likely we never will.
They were all so young and carefree at that time when the book was written, as so many of us are before the vagaries of life and the many trials start to form the shape of how things will be. The divergent paths that each of them were to embark upon through life’s journey are the unwritten chapters of the book that started long ago as Jokers Wild… back in the days of innocence when harmonies blended together up on the roof.