Fans of longtime Detroit resident and country music bandleader Forest Rye are smiling at the thought of recordings they hadn’t heard before.
A record I’d never seen on the short-lived Alben label turned up recently. Detroit juke box and vending machine operator Ben Okum and his business partner Al Smith created the Alben Records Company in 1948. Okum issued the first version of Jimmy Work’s “Tennessee Border” on Alben 501 late that year (see “Detroit Country Music: Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies” for Work’s story). Alben pressed a couple of other records, with red and silver labels, for the Rhythm and Blues market, but the label of the record in question had the blue and silver color scheme of Work’s record, and a catalog number of 601.
The artist’s name, Uncle Ruye, caught my eye because it appeared to be an alternative spelling of “Rye” – and Forest Rye was known to record under another name, Conrad Brooks, for records on Universal, Hot Wax, and Mellow. Furthermore, one side was titled “Crying My Eyes Out,” a song that Mercury Records issued in 1951 by Rye.
Just one listen proved it was Rye’s unmistakable vocals. The band’s name, the Sage Hollow Boys, referred to a place near Erin, Tennessee, where Rye grew up. “The music is definitely dad,” said his daughter Linda. “He was much younger there, with the ‘Crying My Eyes Out’ song. … I am sure it was the first version.
“The ‘I Smiled At Her (She Smiled At Me)’ song was sung to me by my cousin Katherine … She remembered it from when she was a young girl,” she said. 
Probably recorded in 1949, the Alben disc may have been an audition of sorts for Rye. Ben Okum developed ties with Mercury Records around that time, and Rye recorded a new version of “Crying My Eyes Out” along with three other originals for the Chicago-based label around 1950-51. 
Click here to read my original account of Forest Rye in Detroit.
- Linda (Rye) Austin interviewed March 3, 2014
- “Crying My Eyes Out” b/w “After All These Years” Mercury 6328; “Midnight Boogie Blues” b/w “Won’t You Give Me A Little Loving” Mercury 6329
- Source: Advertisement for Boy Scouts benefit show at Saline High School in Saline, Michigan. Saline Observer. (Thursday, April 24, 1947. Vol. 64, No. 29) 2.