Six strings, three chords, and the truth. As promised last week, here’s my take on some of the most influential guitarists of the rock era… part 2. Jimi Hendrix: Monster player, killer tone, studio wizard, great writer, indelible presence… perhaps the quintessential rock musician. Just shows you what somebody can do with an upside-down Stratocaster and a Marshall stack. His star flamed out way too early, and it would have been incredible to watch what he would have come up with had he survived. What he left us has inspired countless thousands of players, and his legacy will live forever. Pete Townshend: The Who’s legendary guitar smasher was actually a very talented multi-instrumentalist as well as being the main songwriter for the band. His windmill strums put the show into his talent of combining rhythm and lead parts into a seamless unit that nicely filled out the guitar area of the guitar-bass-drums band. At a concert in Germany many years ago, a cop walked onstage, pointed his gun at Townshend, and told him to stop smashing his guitar. Party pooper. CSNY: Yeah, including Graham Nash may be pushing things, but Crosby, Stills, and Young more than make up for anything otherwise missing. David Crosby’s inspired acoustic playing meshed so well with Steven Stills’ impeccable acoustic and electric lead work on so many great songs. And what can you say about Neil Young? His acoustic songs are among the best ever written and played, and he invented grunge (with Crazy Horse) years before it was ever called that. The four of them last toured together in 2006, and their long and energetic 36-song set (!) put many younger acts to shame. It’s true: Old Guys Rock. James Taylor: While his songs helped define the acoustic guitarist singer/songwriter archetype, his understated yet elegant fingerpicking and use of passing chords and moving bass lines added a lot to what otherwise would have been a standard three-chord progression. It may sound easy, but try playing a James Taylor song the right way and you’ll find out how easy it’s not. Joni Mitchell: Speaking of chord progressions, Joni took that singer/songwriter archetype and turned it on its head. Not satisfied with the sounds she was hearing in the guitar’s conventional tuning, she would create her own alternate tunings that served to frustrate other guitarists trying to learn her songs. Her unmatched rhythm guitar playing is the foundation of nearly all her songs, and the driving force of all the various bands she has had throughout the years. David Gilmour: The legendary Pink Floyd axeman brought the soul of a blues guitarist to the psychedelic banquet, serving up memorable lead lines on his Stratocaster. There are a million players who can shred at close to light speed, but few can make one note count the way Gilmour does. His tone, taste, and technique (as well as his compositional skills) provided the musical foundation for Waters’ conceptual ascensions. Floyd reunion tour ’09? Jimmy Page: What Clapton and Gilmour did for the Stratocaster, Page did for the Les Paul. Building on the foundation of the blues, Page would pry, cajole, pound, and even bow his Les Paul into producing what became for many the soundtrack of the 70s. His accomplished acoustic work is often overshadowed by his unmatched body of work on the electric. Zep reunion tour ’09? Andy Summers: The Police’s guitarist is one of the best ever at filling out the sounds of a guitar-bass-drums trio. While many bands overkill with screaming distortion and bombast, Summers used unusual chord shapes, effects, and a relatively Spartan approach that was the perfect counterpoint to Sting’s bass lines and Stewart Copeland’s syncopated reggae-infused drumming. The Edge: Just like Andy Summers, the Edge (Dave Evans) provided the only-guitar-in-the-band (mostly) for U2. He used tone and effects (especially delay lines) to fill the holes in the band’s arrangements, and did so in as uniquely inventive a way as Summers did with the Police. Well, there’s still more left to cover, as we’ve barely gotten out of the 70s! E-mail me with your suggestions for Part 3, and we’ll see you next week. Don’t forget to rock on.