Facebook/ Jeff Austin

Jeff Austin, Bluegrass Musician and Yonder Mountain String Band Co-Founder, Dies at 45

On Monday (June 24), just two days after he cancelled shows over an unspecified "health emergency," Jeff Austin, co-founder of Yonder Mountain String Band and the leader of the Jeff Austin Band, passed away in Seattle at age 45.

Austin was born near Chicago on April 25, 1974. During a break from his studies at the University of Cincinnati, Austin was encouraged by his banjo player friend Dave Johnston to learn to play mandolin and take up singing in progressive bluegrass bands. Austin and Johnston eventually moved to Nederland, Col., where they formed Yonder Mountain String Band in 1998 with bassist Ben Kaufmann and guitarist Adam Aijala.

During Austin's stint with the band, he played numerous festival stages and the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The band's Austin era also included albums issued by Vanguard and the group's own Frog Pad Records.

In April 2014, Austin left Yonder Mountain String Band, citing creative differences and conflicting career goals, and began a solo career. A well-earned reputation as a mandolin picker and a stacked supporting cast earned Austin and his band a recording deal with Yep Rock and a coveted spot on the bluegrass and jam band touring circuit.

Austin's verified Facebook page confirmed the news on Tuesday afternoon, describing him as "a dear friend whose music touched the lives of so many, and will be sorely missed."

A statement from the Yonder Mountain String Band followed: "We are saddened to report that we have lost our brother Jeff Austin. Remembering the incredible times and magical moments puts us at a profound loss for words. While we honor his memory, we will continue to pray for his family and for the journey they now face without him."

Cause of death and funeral arrangements have not been announced. Fans interested in donating to Austin's widow Devlyn and the couple's three children—12-year-old Lily Rose, 5-year-old Penelope and 2-year-old Jude Patrick—can do so via Sweet Relief.