I Smiled At Her: Previously unknown Forest Rye record

Fans of longtime Detroit resident and country music bandleader Forest Rye are smiling at the thought of recordings they hadn’t heard before.

"I Smiled At Her" by Uncle Ruye and His Sage Hollow Boys (Alben 601A, 1949)

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.

I Smiled At Her – Uncle Ruye and his Sage Hollow Boys
Crying My Eyes Out – Uncle Ruye and his Sage Hollow Boys

Sage Brush Ranch Boys, 1947
The WCAR radio Sage Bruch Ranch Boys, 1947. From left: Jimmy Swan (bass), possibly Mountain Red (kneeling), Johnny Stringfield (standing), possibly Earl Songer (kneeling), and Forest Rye (fiddle). They also performed at WXYZ radio Detroit. [3]
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. [1]

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. [2]

Click here to read my original account of Forest Rye in Detroit.



  1. Linda (Rye) Austin interviewed March 3, 2014
  2. “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
  3. 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.

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Awesome!! More forlorn than Hank Williams, yet strangely entertaining.

  • The guitarist standing is Johnny Stringfield, a nephew of my dad Forest Rye. The guitarist squatting down in the front beside Mountain Red is Earl Songer, I believe.

  • According to my cousin Tilton Rye, dad had two other songs recorded, “High Gear Daddy” and “Bull By the Horn” in his early years. If anyone finds either of these songs on vinyl I would like to get a copy of the sound track for our family. I am trying to get dad’s songs on cd to pass them on to my children and family.

  • Hi Craig, i found the record “Bull by the Horns” on ebay and am waiting to get it in the mail. Dad is not singing it. It was 1963 and I was 13 yrs. old. I did not have much interest in country music then (liked rock & roll) so i did not pay a lot of attention to it, just remember the chorus.

  • Forest Rye is (was) my grandfather. He was an amazing man. I never got to see him play this kind of music, but I did get to see him play gospel music when I was a child – he passed away when I was 8. He became a preacher a man of God. I can remember him preaching and singing every Sunday and Sunday night.


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