Delroi "Candy Man" Whitaker was born in Los Angeles, CA. When he was the tender age of one, his parents Hazel and Clifford Whitaker Sr. bought a home in Compton where Delroi and his two brothers Clifford Jr. and Erik were raised. He was raised in a loving home and his parents always made their kids attend Sunday School. Delroi loved to sing Elvis Presley songs. As he and his brothers used to play, he would sing the lyrics to "shake like a leaf on a tree" from the song "All Shook Up" by Elvis. As he grew into his teen years, he had collected many albums by Elvis. He was teased about this by his cousins and others. And even today, Delroi plays and collects classic songs by Elvis. He loves the wedding songs and "I Can't Help But Fall in Love" from the movie "Blue Hawaii" starring Elvis. He recently picked up a set of CD's with songs from Elvis that he hadn't heard before such as "He Touched Me" and "Snowbird".

Delroi attended Los Angeles High School where he first got interested in photography. His brother Erik introduced him to a teacher by the name of Jerry Winer. Erik worked on the staff for the school newspaper and Mr Winer was the staff member in charge. Mr Winer took Delroi under his wing and showed him a lot about the newspaper and about photography. Delroi left L.A. High School after the 10th grade and attended Dorsey High School in the 11th grade doing half a semester, only to return to LA High School. When he returned, he continued to work as a staff photographer for the school newspaper and he ended up with 2 "Best Photography Awards" back to back.

Delroi branched out and began taking photos of bigger events. Erik was a photographer for Soul Publications and took many photos of celebrities such as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, & The Four Tops. The Four Tops once came to LA High School and performed an entire concert. Erik took photos for Ebony & Jet magazines and NASA's first African American involved in a space program that died in a plane crash. At that time, it wasn't expected that those celebrities would become as famous as they did. Delroi worked with Erik on "Whiskey a Go Go" with The Four Tops which was a cover shot for Soul Publications. Delroi's photo of Levi Stubbs graced the cover on which Erik's name was erroneously credited. The brothers joked about it at the time and Delroi was thrilled to see his brother's name.  

At the age of 16, Delroi worked with Erik as his assistant without having a thought of becoming a professional photographer. By hanging out with Erik and assisting him on different jobs, Delroi developed a love and passion for photography and also taught him a great deal about the photography business in general. Erik was Delroi's mentor and he couldn't have had a better teacher. "I wanted to explore my God given talent and I thank the LORD for allowing me to be with Erik and learning so much." says Delroi Whitaker.   

 

Erik was such a great photographer that Diana Ross once sent him a telegram to come and take photos of The Supremes. He became a household name and a very sought after photographer. Marvin Gaye & Martha Reeves also mentioned his name in some news articles. Erik also took photos of The Jackson Five's first appearance with Diana Ross at the Inglewood Forum (circa 1969).

Erik left L.A. in 1973 and moved to New York. Delroi decided to settle down and marry his girlfriend Diane. He then began to work on his own. Diane was a great supporter of Delroi and his photography and he definitely appreciated her for that. "I have so much gratitude for Diane being there and allowing me to explore my passion for photography. I couldn't have done it without her." says Delroi Whitaker.

In 1974, Delroi Jr was born and then in 1978 Darrell was born. At this time Delroi was working at a photo lab in L.A. He worked there for several years. Some of his duties were printing, enlarging, and processing photos in a dark room. On the weekends, he was still working as a photographer for special events. He photographed The Jackson Five, The Temptations, football games at L.A. High School, weddings, and birthday parties. One of his greatest memories of a birthday party is when he had the opportunity to shoot the party of Glenn Leonard, Jr, son of Glenn Leonard, Sr. formerly of The Temptations from 1975-1983. He has fond memories of these different events including having to catch the bus to take photos at people's homes. What started out as a hobby suddenly become a wonderful profession.

Erik returned to LA in 1977 and he and Delroi hooked up once again and went out together on some ventures. Erik stayed in LA for a few years and then met his wife "Peta". In 1982, they got married and moved to Australia, where she's originally from. He once again returned in 1986 in time to photograph the ceremony for "The grand dama award" for which his grandmother received. The Grand Dama Award is an award given out every four years to a deserving male or female who is a pioneer in the community. It's a special award for great achievement. Since this was Erik and Delroi's grandmother, it was a big family event. She was 80 years old at the time and everyone was very happy and excited for her. It was a very special event.  

Erik went back to Australia and he and his wife opened up a video store but hard times forced it's closure after a few years.   Erik also worked for a sign company (which was taught to him by his dad). Sadly, he made his transition in 1987. Delroi was devastated but will always remember him and love and appreciate him for everything Erik taught him and did for him.

Back in 1976, Delroi was working at the photo lab. After about four years, he left the photo lab and worked in the sign business with his dad. Years later, he ended up going back to the photo lab and photographing events on the side. Around that time, a vending company was looking to hire people to go out on routes and sell items. Delroi decided to give this a try so he worked on an ice cream truck that sold "soft serve" ice cream. After working for this company for two months, he bought his own truck and started his own route. His truck was covered with various photos that he had taken, both large and small.  This was a great "attention grabber" and the community LOVED it. After a year, the kids got to know him and gave him the title of "The Candy Man". On his main route, he would play the song "The Candy Man" (Sammy Davis Jr) on his truck instead of the traditional candy truck sounds. His route was in the suburbs of L.A. in the Baldwin Hills community also known as "The Jungle". It was a beautiful community which eventually became his home. It was a wonderful experience for him. Since this experience was during the Motown era, the people looked at this experience as "our Motown on the west coast". The parents of the children had so much respect for him being around their kids and he often took time out to hang out with the kids. He would sometimes park his truck in one spot for hours and all the kids became very special to him. He would call them "MY KIDS". Some of the kids would help Delroi on his truck with their parents blessings. Delroi was well known in the community and often times celebrities would come to the truck and meet and greet the people and do autograph sessions. Actress Kim Fields (Facts of life, Living Single) was a regular visitor to the truck and a special treat for the Baldwin Hills community. She would come out and sign autographs, take photos, and spend lots of time with her fans. Delroi has known Kim since she was 13 years old and had the pleasure of being her personal photographer from 1979-1981. She and her mother, actress Chip Fields, and their manager Robert White were so down to earth throughout the years.

There were several celebrities visitors to Delroi's Candy Man truck.  Mark James, Donny McCoullough, Louis Price (of the Temptations), Muhammed Ali, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Jermaine Jackson, The Dramatics, The Ojay's, Side Effect and Chuck Brown to name a few. He also took photos of these and many other celebrites as they would visit "Tower Records" in Baldwin Hills. The Temptations were really special for Delroi, as he is a BIG Temptations fan. Getting to know the guys and to "hang out" was a big thrill for him. There was something about the group that drew Delroi to them. He played a lot of The Temptations songs from his truck. He's always been a Temptation at heart and has met and photographed several of the group members over the years. All of them have been kind to him and his family and for that, he's so grateful. When Glenn Leonard (Silent Night, I'm on fire) came into the group, he had a chance to meet him in 1977. He was invited by Louis Price to attend three shows in San Mateo. He had the privilege of riding with Glenn and the guys to the theatre. Bill Cosby was the emcee of the show for all three nights and he also got the opportunity to meet Bill and take photos of him. That was a really special event for him. He and Glenn still keep in touch and have remained good friends.  

Delroi ran the Candy Man truck from 1976-1986. He stopped in 1982 to work with his dad for three years and then went back to the truck in 1985 and worked another year. In 1986, Delroi decided to call it quits. He was going through some personal issues and during that time, the Lord found a way to bring some special people into his life. He ended up attending the "Crenshaw Christian Center", a non domination church founded by Pastor Frederick Price. Pastor Price baptized his oldest son Delroi, Jr. After spending time at the church, he now sees so clearly how GOD works in our lives.  "Sometimes things happen and we don't figure out until later why things happen the way they do. We need to take heed to everything that we do on a daily basis. I give GOD all the glory for what he has allowed me to do and things I continue to do. I try to stay positive and do what's right, even though we all have areas where we will sometimes mess up but if we put our trust in the LORD, we can't go wrong." says Delroi Whitaker.  

When Delroi was directed over to the church, he became a photographer for The Crenshaw Christian Center. His friend Flo Jenkins was an editor who he had worked with in previous years on such assignments as Gil Scot Herrin, Phyllis Hyman and many other artists at Arista Records.  

November 06, 2019 — Sundas Aziz

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