With a few breaks, the Liberty Bell might have been America's Yardbirds -- as it worked out, however, the group suffered the undeserved fate of being a footnote in the history of Corpus Christi rock bands. Formed in Corpus Christi, TX in the mid-'60s, they were originally named the Zulus and played a mix of blues-rock drifting toward psychedelia, driven by some fairly ambitious guitar work by lead axeman Al Hunt. In 1967, they hooked up with Carl Becker, the co-owner of J-Beck Records, which, at the time, was recording the hottest local band, the Zakary Thaks. Becker signed them to his new Cee-Bee Records, and suggested a name change to the Liberty Bell.
The group's lineup at the time of their first single, a cover of the Yardbirds' "Nazz Are Blue" backed with a cover of Willie Dixon's "Big Boss Man," included Ronnie Tanner on lead vocals, Al Hunt on lead guitar, Richard Painter on rhythm guitar, and Wayne Harrison on bass. This record did well enough locally to justify further recording, and these sessions yielded the best songs of the group's entire history, "Something for Me," "For What You Lack," "I Can See," and "That's How It Will Be." Fast-tempo, fuzz-drenched pieces with catchy hooks, these numbers made the group sound like an American version of the Yardbirds with more of an angry punk edge, courtesy of lead singer Ronnie Tanner. But the real star of the group was lead guitarist Al Hunt, who wrote most of the material in those days and played like Jeff Beck on a good day.
Tanner exited the group in early 1968 and was replaced by Chris Gemiottis, formerly of the Zakary Thaks, who also brought a quartet of original songs with him, which were somewhat less punk-oriented and attempted to be more profound. The group switched to the Back Beat label, which specialized in R&B-flavored material. The Liberty Bell continued in its psychedelic/garage direction before releasing a soul-style number, "Naw Naw Naw" (on which only Gemiottis participated, with a studio band backing him) for their final single, late in 1968. The Liberty Bell came to an end in 1969 when Gemiottis returned to his former band. In 1995, however, Collectables Records released a 14-song collection of their music. ~ Bruce Eder