[This is the first of four columns I recently wrote for the Weekly Newspapers about one of my favorite subjects -- I hope you enjoy it, too!] Six strings, three chords, and the truth. That’s really what it’s all about, notwithstanding the claim made by the Hokey Pokey. Rolling Stone just came out with “The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time” cover story; various other music magazines have also touched on the instrument that puts the rock in rock and roll. Here’s my take on some of the most influential guitarists of the rock era… part 1. Chuck Berry: No one came out of the gate quicker, synthesizing the various influences of R&B, country, and the blues into classic rock licks that have inspired generations of axe slingers. He more or less founded the language that is rock guitar. Bo Diddley: Bo knows rock and roll. Bo helped invent it, and his signature rhythms propelled everyone from Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones and the Who. Besides, no one looked cooler playing a square guitar. R.I.P., Mr. Ellas Bates. Scotty Moore: As Elvis’ original lead guitarist, Moore provided inspiration to the likes of Keith Richards and countless others. As Elvis took country and the blues and made it into rock, Moore defined the role of the lead guitarist in the band. As such, he’s one of the few “sidemen” to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. James Burton: the original master of the paisley Telecaster first came to prominence in Ricky Nelson’s TV band. His talents, however, took him to kings and mountain highs. From lead guitar in Elvis Presley’s best bands, to more recording session work than most guitarists could dream about, to playing tasty licks behind John Denver, Burton’s finesse and taste helped rock guitar move forward in its formative years. The Beatles: The Fab Four featured not just one, but three stellar guitar players. George Harrison turned into a master of taste and subtlety (as well as one of the best slide guitar players ever). John Lennon was as fine a rhythm player as you’d ever want, but who could also turn in some inspired lead playing (think “Revolution” and “Get Back”). Although Paul basically turned rock bass on its head with his inventive lines, his guitar work in the Beatles wasn’t at all too shabby (“Blackbird,” “Taxman,” “The End”). Keith Richards: The heart and soul of the Rolling Stones would be the first to admit that he isn’t the flashiest lead guitarist around. Who gives a rat’s…? He’s probably the finest rhythm player to ever strap on a Fender guitar. Not a believer? Try listening to “Brown Sugar” or “Start Me Up” or “Jumping Jack Flash” and then tell me how far rock guitar could have come without Keef’s contributions. Roger McGuinn: Although he was Jim McGuinn during the Byrds’ heyday, his signature Rickenbacker 12-string lines defined the term “jangle” as it was later to be used to great effect by bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and R.E.M. Thank guru Sri Chinmoy for the name change. Eric Clapton: Clapton is God. So said graffiti scrawled and painted all over the world in the late ‘60s. Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, session guitarist for the Beatles (!), and one incredible solo career may not be actually divine, but his touch on the Stratocaster is as close as we mere mortals can get. Carlos Santana: Sprung from the Woodstock era as a full-blown talent, composer of some of the best and truly classic rock songs, Santana is another of those few guitarists who seem to channel the divine as he plays. Not many people can claim hits in every decade from the 60s to the 00s, but Carlos still shows no signs of slowing down. And as good as he is in the studio, seeing him perform live is a truly transcendental experience. (Extra credit: if you remembered that guru Sri Chinmoy’s name for Santana was Devadip, you stayed somewhat lucid during the psychedelic era. Congrats on keeping some functional brain cells!) That’s all for Part 1; Part 2 comes next week. Until then, feel free to e-mail me your suggestions for a potential Part 3. And rock on.