Okay, round two. Again, not necessarily the "best" or "favorite" - the guy/gal who makes you want to be better, or even just pick up your axe and play.
For me, among my favorites are guys like John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, even Gene Simmons (the early years, when he at least pretended he was a musician).
But the guys who really inspire me?
Michael Manring. I found him through his association with Michael Hedges, but he clearly shines on his own. There's a song he does called "Snakes Got Legs" - live, he plays it with loopers. There's a video of him playing it where he's switching basses while the loops are going and he just stops and shakes his head. Technically, I don't think I've ever seen a better example of economy of motion.
And then there's this...
The other guy is Bryan Beller - solo artist, also works with Mike Keneally, the Aristocrats, Dethklok, Steve Vai and too many others. Like Keneally, he's a guy I wish I'd known about when I was much younger because, aside from the insane ability to play ANYTHING and make it look effortless, he's working a career model that I'd have never thought of. Then again, if I'd known about him when I was 16, I wouldn't have learned anything from him because he was 8!
That's Bryan w/my Gene Simmons bass (and Hans, if you want to break out the Kiss tunes at the 40th bash, this will come with me!). To give you an idea how good he is, when he got the gig to play with Dethklok (the most brutal metal band on the planet), he had to come up with a new technique because he doesn't play with a pick. It's really something to watch.
I've been lucky enough to get to know both of these guys a bit, in person and through e-mail, and they are two of the most genuine people you can meet. I've been stunned that they both remembered me at times when I would have never thought they would.
To give you an idea how cool...the first time I met Manring was at a festival in Kent, OH. My buddy and I were taking several Hedges boots to him (this was about 7-8 months after Hedges died). We met him backstage, gave him the tapes and chatted a while (met Arlo Guthrie, too - pretty cool). Later, we ran into Manring again at a merch table and were chatting, and this girl came up and joined the conversation. She looked at him and said, "Wait a second - you're the guy who was playing bass before!" Michael said he was, and she said, "You're pretty good - you should stick with it." Even after she left, he was still gracious about it (even though we teased him about it every time we saw him for the next few years).