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Ron "Byrd" Foster - By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The people who frequented the Decade and other clubs in the '70s and '80s knew there was a lot more to Ron "Byrd" Foster than a backbeat.
With a voice like that, he could have been a front man.
Amazingly enough, the drummer/singer for the Silencers, Iron City Houserockers and Red Hot & Blue never released an album under his own name.
Now, timed with the first anniversary of his death (June 30) comes the release of his debut solo album, "Vision of Heaven," recorded at HippyHouse Recording Studios in Orlovista, Fla., where he lived since the early '90s.
"We all know he played and sang on many [songs]," says his widow Carrie Smooke Foster, "but he always wanted to do his own [album], so Ron started recording with his friend Tim Kelliher who is the guitar player. When Ron started feeling ill, he stopped going to the studio. Then he ended up diagnosed with cancer. When Ron was in the hospital, Tim came in one day and said, 'Byrd, we are going to make sure this gets finished.' "
Mr. Kelliher -- a guitar burner who's played with the likes of Carey Bell, Earl King, Bo Diddley, Nappy Brown and Lester Chambers -- has followed through by completing the eight-song, 41-minute album, which finds Foster belting out a range of blues, from the New Orleans boogie of "Gimme, Gimme," to the Chicago style of "Stop Draggin that Chain," to the Memphis soul of "Twisting the Knife."
If they sent "Vision of Heaven" around to blues festivals, they'd be scrambling to book Foster. That's how strong and confident the vocals are throughout.
"All the musicians donated their time and money from their gigs to finish it," Ms. Foster says. "It's like a dream come true, I just wish he was here to enjoy it."