It was 1972 when Gerald “Jerry” Gillotti changed the name of The Green Derby jazz club on North Main Street to Gilly’s.
Three locations and 45 years later, Gilly’s Jazz has become an iconic nightclub for locals and others worldwide.
Through the years, Gillotti has brought some of the biggest names in music, including Tony Bennett, BB King, Wynton Marsalis, Pieces of a Dream, Kim Walters, Allan Holdsworth, Marion Meadows, Walter Beasley and Alex Bugnon to Dayton.
Gary Leppla of Dayton remembers going to shows at the venue, located at 132 S. Jefferson St. for the past 40 years, as a college student and seeing artists he otherwise may have never heard of.
“He put Dayton on the map in the world of jazz,” Leppla said of Gillotti, with whom he’s since become good friends.
Activity at the club has slowed since Gillotti, 80, was the victim of an attack during a robbery in 2016. Tom Gillotti, Jerry’s brother, has kept things together since the attack, running the day-to-day operations while his brother continues to recover. No one has been arrested for the crime.
Last year Jerry, a 2013 Dayton Walk of Fame inductee, told this news outlet he intended to return as soon as possible but was also considering selling the business if the right buyer could be found. However, for now, Gilly’s will head into its 46th year under the same owner.
“That’s what I do, who I am,” Gillotti told us previously.
“(Gilly’s) is part of the fabric of Dayton,” Leppla said. “There’s a reason he’s there in the Walk of Fame with the Wright brothers, Paul Lawrence Dunbar and people like that.”