Tj Wheeler is an original, but his music is steeped in timeless traditions of Blues & Jazz. Born in 1952, in Bremerton Washington, as a teenager he saw Buddy Guy, & Son House, and instantly became a bonafide Blues Guy. The road was and is his musical university, and seeking out Blues & Jazz greats, his influences have included Booker White, Furry Lewis, Lenny Breau, Arthur Hall, Danny Barker & countless others.
Over the decades Tj’s worked, studied and performed with such diverse & notables as Pinetop Perkins, Mighty Sam McClain, Katie Webster, Nappy Brown, Tiny Grimes, Benny Waters, Honey Boy Edwards, Albert Collins, Roswell Rudd, Odetta, Eddy Kirkland, Louisiana Red, Lazy Lester, Tommy Ridgley and Joe Houston. He’s been featured as a performer as well as a master clinician for such top Blues & Jazz Festivals as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, The Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, the Ottawa Blues Festival, and the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.
Tj is currently celebrating his 50th anniversary of conducting Blues in the School programs. Recently he was honored to be inducted into the New England Music Museum, as well as being the Key Note speaker & performer for the NH MLK Coalition 2022 Holiday Commemoration. He’s internationally recognized as a leading proponent of Blues, Jazz & overall roots music, in the school programs. His award-winning Hope, Heroes’ & the Blues, integrated arts, anti-racism program has reached roughly 500,000 students worldwide. From the 1 string slide Diddley Bow, tenor Ukulele, 5 string “Clawhammer” banjo, NOLA style tenor Banjo, on up to the 7 string Arch Top Guitar this Blues Guy 50 years later is still shakin’ it on down and spreading the message that you sing the Blues to lose the Blues. Far from making anyone feel negatively, Tj’s programs create Hope, for ALL, that its Black originators can be certainly considered Heroes’ overcoming a myriad of challenges in bringing their cathartic music to the world.
Tj ‘s NH non-profit affiliation history includes 1982 Booking Summer concert series for Prescott Park Arts Festival; 1982 co-founder Portsmouth Concert Cooperative; 1985 -2006 co -founder with Valerie Cunningham of the Blues Bank Collective; & the Seacoast Black Heritage Festival; 1986 – 2006 Director of the Portsmouth Blues Festival; a driving member of the NH MLK Holiday Movement 1982 – 2002; Roster member of the NH State Council on the Arts 1984 on up. Other affiliations include the NAACP; the Greater Piscataqua Community Foundation the NH Diversity Org; Raising the Blues foundation; Portsmouth First Night; Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail Org. 1987 – present; co- founder & VP of the Friends of the Hampton Falls Bandstand org 2016 – ongoing; and the Mount Zion Memorial Fund of Mississippi.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
- Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation presented at the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival June 2008
- Granite State Award from the University Of New Hampshire ..spring 2006
- Paul Robeson Diversity Commemoration Award U.S. Post Office 2004
- Best Youth Band T.J.Wheeler’s Funky River Band N.H. Magazine 2004
- Key Note Speaker for the 21 Century education Conference, Durham N.H. 2004
- Contributing writer for PBS’s Year of the Blues Educational Curriculum 2003
- W.C. Handy Keeping the Blues Alive Award in education
- Feature story Blues Revue Magazine Spring 2003
- N.H. Diversity Organization’s Award in Education to the Blues Bank Collective & T.J. Wheeler 2003
- 2002 C.D. Of The Year Award for “Blues You Can Bank On” T.J. Wheeler & Pat Gallagher by JAM magazine
- 2 place 2002 Song of the Year Award fir “Blues You Can Bank On” written by Nadine Perry & T.J. Wheeler
- The 2001 National Music Foundation Award for “Hope, Heroes & The Blues
- The first Lifetime Achievement Award 2001 from Spotlight Magazine
- 1996 Individual Artist Award N.H. St. Council on the Arts
- 1995 Silver Pinnacle Education award from the International Music Festival Organization
- 1993 First Race Unity Award from the Seacoast N.E. Baha’i