In Memoriam: Jeff Austin

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Jeff Austin, the former co-founding member of Yonder Mountain String Band and current leader of the Jeff Austin Band, has died. Austin’s death was confirmed by his representatives, who issued the following official statement:

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of a beloved family member, mandolinist, singer, songwriter and founder of The Jeff Austin Band, and Yonder Mountain String Band, Jeff Austin. Austin passed away June 24, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. He was son of Eileen Austin, husband to Devlyn, and father to Lily Rose (12), Penelope (5), and Jude Patrick (2). He was a dear friend whose music touched the lives of so many, and will be sorely missed. If you would like to make a contribution to help his family, please visit https://sweetrelief.org/jeff-austin-fund/.

A message recently posted to Austin’s Facebook referenced a “medical emergency.” Yonder Mountain String Band responded to the post asking for prayers for Austin and they later addressed the situation during their set Saturday the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which included a performance of “Half Moon Rising” dedicated to Austin.

Austin was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. In the mid-1990s, Austin met banjo player Dave Johnston who was a student at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Johnston encouraged Austin to pick up the mandolin and the two formed a short-lived band.

Austin and Johnston separately left Illinois and moved to Colorado. In 1998, after meeting bassist Ben Kaufmann and guitarist Adam Aijala, the four musicians formed Yonder Mountain String Band. Austin remained a member of Yonder Mountain String Band through 2014 when he left the group to pursue a solo career.

Austin and The Big Wu’s Chris Castino recorded an album together in 2004 that featured Noam Pikelny, Darol Anger and others. In 2006, Keller Williams and The String Cheese Incident’s Keith Moseley formed Grateful Grass with Austin and recorded an album of live Grateful Dead covers.

Umphrey’s McGee’s Brendan Bayliss and Austin formed 30db and released the album One Man Show in 2010 while continuing to periodically perform together as recently as last weekend. Prior to forming the Jeff Austin Band, the mandolin player was part of The Here And Now project with Danny Barnes, Larry Keel and Jenny Keel.

Recent years saw Austin joining The Travelin McCourys for “Grateful Ball” bluegrass tributes to the Grateful Dead. In 2015, Jeff Austin’s solo album, The Simple Truth, featuring members of the Jeff Austin Band was released.