Tom Wheeler Gifted Us With Guitar Passion

By: Rick Landers

Tom Wheeler - photo courtesy of the University of Oregon.

Tom Wheeler – photo courtesy of the University of Oregon.

A few years back, many of us have whiled away our time reading some insightful interviews in the pages of Guitar Player (GP) magazine or discovered more information about acoustic and electric guitars and their players, all gifted to us by the hard work and guitar passion of Tom Wheeler.

It was with sudden sadness that I learned of his passing from a friend and fellow guitar fan.

Tom generated informed enthusiasm for guitars and left his mark in kind, friendly and measurable ways, and in his global reach while serving as the Editor-in -Chief of Guitar Player (1981 – 1991), freelancing for Rolling Stone, editing Bass Player and authoring numerous tomes on guitars, amps, and musicians.

“On behalf of NAMM and our Members, we mourn Tom’s passing.  His role as a writer in the ‘70’s and then as chief editor of Guitar Player brought him into our world each month and he became required reading for all of us in music retail.  He was also aware of the industry’s responsibility in creating new players and under his leadership GP regularly sponsored our Stairway to Stardom program when I was at Skip’s Music in Sacramento.  Tom’s efforts helped shape the guitar market for decades and his contributions will live on.” – Joe Lamond, President, NAMM

Tom’s passion led him to conducting interviews with such legendary guitar masters and music industry leaders as, Les Paul, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Leo Fender, Keith Richards and Little Richard.

Tom and I collaborated on an interview with the legendary Les Paul, with Tom graciously agreeing to write the introduction. We became personally acquainted during his visits to Paul Reed Smith Guitars, while we enjoyed the company’s annual trade show in Maryland. And later, his excellent book, The Dream Factory: Fender Custom Shop, was named Guitar International magazine’s Book of the Year.

More recently, Tom served as a journalism professor at the University of Oregon where he taught courses on “Grammar for Communications” and “Feature Writing”.

Books by Tom Wheeler

  • The Guitar Book: A Handbook for Electric & Acoustic
  • The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps
  • Stratocaster Chronicles (Book of the Year Award – Vintage Guitar Magazine)
  • American Guitars: An Illustrated History
  • The Dream Factory: Fender Custom Shop (Book of the Year Award – Guitar International Magazine)
  • The Fender Archives: A Scrapbook of Artifacts, Treasures, and Inside Information
  • The Stratocaster Continues
  • Phototruth or Photofiction: Ethics and Media Imagery in the Digital Age

Several of his books included forwards by luminaries in the world of guitar, including: B.B. King; Eric Clapton; Billy Gibbons, Les Paul and Eric Johnson.

Tom Hutchin Wheeler passed away in the San Francisco Bay area at the age of 70, on Saturday, February 10, 2018. His legacy continues not only in his masterfully written books and articles, and in the so many other ways that he personally inspired his fellow guitar players, but most especially in how he will forever live in the hearts of his family and his many friends.




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