FOLK legend Vin Garbutt has died at the age of 69.

The “Teesside Troubadour” had major heart surgery just weeks ago and was thought to be on the road to recovery.

But his family released a statement today saying: “It is with great sadness and extremely heavy hearts that we must inform you that our beloved Vin passed away this morning.

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“He loved the life he shared with you all, and we know how much he’ll be missed.

“Although we won’t be able to see him again, we’re grateful that we will be able to listen to him for the rest of our lives.”

Mr Garbutt, who lived in a house overlooking the sea near Loftus, east Cleveland, said after the surgery: “A few prayers would not be out of order and God willing, I’ll see you in a few months.”

But he is understood to have taken a sudden turn for the worse in the last few days.

Friend Michael McGeary, a former journalist who was working with Mr Garbutt on a biography, said: “Vin was Teesside’s greatest ambassador and news of his passing will be mourned by lovers of folk music all around the world. The many emails I have received from his fans in recent months all speak genuine love and warmth.

“Hearing him sing songs about the places we knew in the strongest of Teesside accents was always a delight.

“Vin was a deeply spiritual man with very firm beliefs of his own, but a tolerance for everybody else’s as well.

"Getting to know him better in recent years as he’s talked to me about his life has been a real joy and I will treasure every moment I spent with him.

"I know from my conversations with Vin that he wasn’t afraid of death and was grateful to have enjoyed such a full life.

"His only concern about leaving this world when the time came for him was for the family he would leave behind, and my prayers at this time are for them.

Mr Garbutt, who was born in South Bank, enjoyed a music career spanning nearly 50 years.

He was originally taken on as an ICI apprentice at Wilton but at the age of 21 became a professional singer-songwriter.

In 1999 he spent a year on a world tour, playing in Australia, New Zealand, and the Far East, but in 2005 he fell ill and had minor heart surgery from which he made a full recovery.

He won best live act award in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and was also nominated for folk singer of the year.

And six years ago, filmmaker Craig Hornby followed his global travels for a documentary, Teesside Troubadour.