Pioneering jamgrass mandolin player Jeff Austin passed over to the spirit music world on Monday. Having served for 16 years as Yonder Mountain String Band’s focal point with his frantic playing and stage presence, Austin played over 1500 shows, including performing for presidential candidates and dozens of music festivals across the country.
In the wake of this tragedy, the music community has come together and paid tribute to Austin’s passing through the sound of music and reflections of his musical inspiration, brotherhood, and impact on the bluegrass world.
While news circulated of Austin’s medical emergency last Friday night, Umphrey’s McGee waited no time to dedicate a song during their second night at their Red Rocks show. Joined by the Turkuaz horns and vocalists Shira Elias and Sammi Garett, the band paid tribute to Austin with The Beatles’ “A Little Help From My Friends”.
Umphrey’s McGee, Ft. Turkuaz – “With A Little Help From My Friends” – 6/22/19
[Video: Umphrey’s McGee]
Umphrey’s Brendan Bayliss wrote, “He was a talker. And a really funny one at that. If you ever saw him perform, then you already got to know him. There was no act, what you saw and heard was honest and real… and raw…Listen to his music. Turn it up. Sing along. Celebrate his life. Tell the stories and keep the memories alive.”
The two had shared the stage together just two weeks ago at The Taste of Randolph in Chicago.
Jeff Austin & Brendan Bayless – “Handshake Drugs, Lick #6” – 6/16/19
[Video: Jim Bauw]
Of course Austin’s music brothers who he shared the stage with hundreds of times throughout the last 16 years Yonder Mountain String Band reflected on the passing of their high-energied mandolin player and all the magic the band has shared on stage throughout the years.
Yonder Mountain String Band – “Traffic Jam” – 6/22/19
Bluegrass friend Bill Nershi of The String Cheese Incident wrote in memory of his old neighbor Austin and reflected on the music memories the two have made together throughout the years.
Fellow jamgrass band Greensky Bluegrass gave their condolences to Austin’s passing, acknowledging his inspiring spirit and long-time supporter of the music scene.
Greensky Bluegrass, Ft. Jeff Austin and Kyle Tuttle – “Reuben’s Train” – 12/29/18
[Video: Ryan Boldrey]
As straightforward as possible, moe. wrote, “Jeff was a hell of a talent.” Austin had shared the stage with moe. countless times, and made his mark on everyone who had listened to his music.
moe., Ft. Jeff Austin – “Happy Hour Hero” – 4/17/10
[Video: Mickey Doherty]
The king of Newgrass Sam Bush reflected on the music the two had played together and the Cubs vs. Cardinals baseball discussions, remembering the brotherhood they had shared.
Bluegrass friends The Infamous Stringdusters reflected one of the first times seeing Austin play, inspiring the young band about the heart and soul of bluegrass music and what could be possible for an acoustic band, opening up endless possibilities of the world of music.
The Infamous Stringdusters, Ft. Jeff Austin – 1/19/12
Old-time friend and bluegrass picker Keller Williams posted heart-felt photos of the two hanging out over the years.
Leftover Salmon‘s Vince Herman kept his tribute to Austin simple with a touching new song in his memory.
Austin’s musical legacy will never be forgotten. He has shared the bluegrass world and inspired many with his dedication to spreading music and joy to people around the world for decades. His music will live on through his own Jeff Austin Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, and musicians around the world. You can donate to Austin’s family through the Sweet Relief fund here.