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5 things to know about Gilly’s Jazz, a Dayton legend for live music

Jerry Gillotti, the co-founder of Gilly’s Jazz, died on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 80.

Here are 5 things to know about his iconic downtown jazz club:

1. Brothers bought the club. Jerry Gillotti and his brother Tom purchased the Green Derby Night Club on North Main Street in 1972 and changed the name to Gilly’s. The first show at Gilly’s was the Roy Meriwether Trio on July 7, 1972. 

2. Jazz greats from the get-go. The Bill Evans Trio performed at Gilly’s for the official grand opening event on July 18, 1972. It was the Grammy-winning pianist’s first appearance in the Dayton area. 

3. Devoted to jive. “When I opened, I used to do jazz six nights a week, three sets,” Gillotti said in 2010. His passion for the musical genre began during a stint in the Army while stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. He frequented jazz clubs and heard iconic acts such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and the Modern Jazz Quartet. 


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4. Greats in the Gem City. Gillotti has brought some of the biggest names in music to the area, including Tony Bennett, BB King, Wynton Marsalis, Pieces of a Dream, Kim Walters, Allan Holdsworth, Marion Meadows, Walter Beasley, Stan Getz, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton and Alex Bugnon. 

5. Musical styles. Through the years, Gilly’s was also home to a wider variety of musical styles. R&B dance parties, blues and rock acts and a David Bowie tribute band are among the acts that have packed the club.

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