Former GP Editor and Industry Icon Tom Wheeler Dies

Wheeler joined Guitar Player in 1977, and served as chief editor from 1981-1991
Publish date:

Photo courtesy of University of Oregon

Unbelievably sad news...

Tom Wheeler—arguably the most recognizable and beloved editor of Guitar Player magazine—passed away on Saturday, February 10, at 70 years old.

Juan-Carlos Molleda, Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon—where Wheeler worked as a professor of journalism—announced Wheeler’s passing in an email today. Other than the fact that Wheeler was in the San Francisco Bay Area when he died, no other details were available at this time. 

"Tom was a bigger than life figure in the world of guitar journalism," says Guitar Player/Music Group Art Director Paul Haggard. "His tenure at Guitar Player, starting in the late '70—when it was the only existing magazine for players at the time—was during the seminal years of what I would call a bursting revolution of the instrument, with beginning and accomplished players searching for a voice to substantiate and validate their quest for all things guitar. There were thousands of fledgling guitarists trying to find information about their heroes and inspirations, and Guitar Player, with Tom at the helm, gave reverence to the stature of playing guitar itself, and it was Tom's voice which guided those thousands of eager players to respect and rejoice the art of playing.

"Tom also wrote many books on the subject, which, when I was myself young and learning, I devoured from cover to cover. I have known Tom for 35 years, and I feel proud to have worked with him and gleaned a bit of the love and respect of the instrument from him."

"Tom was the face of GP for so many years," says Guitar Player Senior Editor Art Thompson, "and he made the mag into something that guitar players all over the world relied on and respected. I was very fortunate to have him as a mentor."

For my part, Tom never stopped supporting the magazine, or offering counsel when asked, and he kept himself firmly in the Guitar Player family. He never declined to do anything we asked of him, or to graciously allow himself to be hounded for favors whenever we needed an article, a column, or some other data. Ten years ago, he wrote a wonderful introduction to The Guitar Player Book that celebrated the magazine's 40th birthday.

In his industry work outside of GP, he was a respected historian of the guitar, and penned many essential books, including The Stratocaster Chronicles, The Guitar Book, and The Soul of Tone.

Tom's passing is a monumental loss for this magazine, guitar journalism, and guitarists all across the planet.