After freelancing for Rolling Stone, Tom served as editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine and founding editorial director of Bass Player. He left Guitar Player in 1991, which, according to the National Guitar Museum, signaled the end of the magazine’s golden era.
His first encyclopedia, The Guitar Book: A Handbook for Electric and Acoustic Guitarists (foreword by B.B. King), was published by Harper & Row. An updated Japanese version was published in 2000. His next book, American Guitars: An Illustrated History (foreword by Les Paul), was called by one retail catalog “the best book ever written about guitars.”
His 2004 book, The Stratocaster Chronicles (foreword by Eric Clapton), was named Book of the Year by Vintage Guitar magazine. Tom also wrote The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps (foreword by Keith Richards) and The Dream Factory: Fender Custom Shop (foreword by Billy Gibbons), named Book of the Year by Guitar International. His latest books are The Fender Archives: A Scrapbook of Artifacts, Treasures, and Inside Information (foreword by James Burton) and The Stratocaster Continues (foreword by Eric Johnson). His books are internationally distributed and appear in English, Dutch, German, and Japanese editions. He also wrote a textbook, Phototruth or Photofiction: Ethics and Media Imagery in the Digital Age.
Wheeler co-edited and wrote the foreword for Richard Smith’s Fender: The Sound Heard ’Round The World. He wrote the foreword for The PRS Guitar Book and contributed chapters to Gibson Guitars, 100 Years of an American Icon; The Electric Guitar; Electric Guitars of the Fifties; and Electric Guitars of the Sixties; among other books. Some of his work is archived at the National Museum of American History/Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As an artist, he collaborated with Paul Reed Smith and other players in the design of the PRS Signature guitar.
Wheeler has interviewed Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Les Paul, Leo Fender, Keith Richards, and hundreds of other artists and key figures in the history and evolution of the modern guitar. He was a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution and to the publishers of The Guitar Collection: An Elite Gathering of 150 Exceptional Guitars and has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Irish Public Radio, American Public Radio, MTV, NPR, the BBC, and CNN. He appears in the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary Electrified: The Guitar Revolution, serves on Fender’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee, and was the writer and host of informational videos for Fender and Guild.
Wheeler holds a juris doctor degree from the Loyola School of Law. He plays guitar with soul singer Deb Cleveland and with The Blue Valentines.
- JD, Loyola School of Law, 1975
- BA, University of California, Los Angeles, 1969
Areas of Expertise
- Feature writing
- Magazine editing
- Arts and the media