With the death last week of innovator and inventor Les Paul, there was much discussion of the role he and Leo Fender made in creating rock and roll by creating the solid body electric guitar. Yet, before there was rock and roll, there was jazz, and jazz guitar became viable thanks to a young Kansas City musician named Charlie Christian. After Christian came others who showed how the guitar could move from a rhythm instrument (strumming the chords to keep the beat) to a melodic lead instrument.
While many jazz purists now downplay his influence, Wes Montgomery was incredibly important. His unique style, playing those octave leads, is echoed in guitarists today, as varied as Steve Howe and Joe Satriani.
After recording with Miles Davis, John "Mahavishnu" McLaughlin put together an all-electric jazz band, complete with an electric violinist, and managed to push fusion right to the edge. Mahavishnu Orchestra toured with the Allman Brothers and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and were very often confused with rock bands because of the sheer volume they produced, as well as the blistering playing of McLaughlin. Yet, for all that, they were just a jazz quintet amped up.
This is as much what Les Paul wrought as is Jimmy Page and Keith Richards.