Apocalypse Meow X: Jazzman Everette DeVan’s wife, Gayle, shares his story

Back in 2008, the first Apocalypse Meow raised funds for musician Abigail Henderson’s treatment, after she was diagnosed with Stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer. The event fetched nearly $20,000; in the spirit of giving back to the community, Henderson started the Midwest Music Foundation to, as she said at the time, “provide musicians with healthcare assistance.”

Henderson died in 2013, but the Midwest Music Foundation continues, as does the benefit that started it all: Apocalypse Meow X takes place this weekend. I spoke with members of the MMF board, as well as affected musicians, to update the organization’s story.

Gayle DeVan is the wife of Everette DeVan, a local jazz legend. The pianist has suffered a series of serious health maladies over the past few years, including a stroke, that have left him unable to work. High medical bills have led the DeVans to sell much of Everette’s musical equipment and move from their home. (In addition to the help of MMF, there is also a YouCaring for the family.)

The Pitch: When did you first become acquainted with MMF?

Gayle DeVan: We first got acquainted with MFF shortly after Everette had his stroke, in February of 2014. This episode was the start of his illness. He was playing a single gig, and in the blink of an eye, he became violently ill. He called me, and I had to go get him and his equipment. He thought at first he had the flu, until he was seeing triple and went to the ER to find that he’d had a stoke.

It was a month or so later that I was introduced to Rhonda Lynn with MFF, since he had no insurance at the time and the hospital bill alone was well into the thousands. MMF stepped up to the plate almost immediately. They helped with rent, utilities, food and a good support system. Without this organization and their assistance, we were sure to sink in a matter of weeks. In terms of health care, they gave us contact numbers for the options that we needed help with, and acted as a advocate.

What’s the story of how you came to need assistance, in terms of health care?

Everette’s health has been declining over the past three years. Right now, he has not performed in eight months. His days are spent going to dialysis and staying home, as it drains him to the point where he can no longer perform. This has been so hard for us, as the Social Security we receive doesn’t even the pay the rent, let alone other necessities. We will be moving from our home of five years due to this — which we will miss dearly, but we have no choice at this point.

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How do you feel MMF helps the musical community of Kansas City?

I believe that MFF is a valuable asset to the KC musical community. They work hard to raise funds in the area to provide for musicians who are in need. Not only have they been there for us, but their kind compassion for these musicians is above and beyond. Really, there are no words how they have helped not only financially, but mentally.

When you are facing day to day of this illness, it tends to wear on you after a while. It is so helpful to know that there are still organizations out there who really care, and live their lives for the need of others. I wish I could speak on a microphone to the entire KC metro area about MFF. There is just nothing bad to say about MFF.

Again, I applaud this organization and will help in the future toward anything I can do to promote it. Kudos to Rhonda Lynn, who is a strong influence in this organization and also has a day job. She stays up way too late in the night looking for grants to support what she so strongly believes in. She has been such an inspiration to both of us. I remember one time, she actually came over to my house to check on me, and she actually paid out of her own pocket our cable bill, so we could keep our internet. That is just who she is. I just adore her.

This series concludes Thursday with the story of musician Brandon Phillips.

Apocalypse Meow X takes place Friday, November 3, at Mills Record Company for a free, all-ages show with the Country Duo, Headlight Rivals and Bohemian Cult Revival, and emceed by KCUR 89.3’s Michael Byars. It continues on Saturday, November 4, at RecordBar, with Split Lip Rayfield, a reunion set from Sandoval, Chris Meck & the Guilty Birds, Brandon Phillips & the Condition, Calvin Arsenia, Nathan Corsi and IVØRY BLACK, and emceed by Mark Manning of KKFI 90.1 and Jason Nivens of KQRC 98.9. Details on both shows here.

To become a sustaining member of the Midwest Music Foundation, more information can be found here.