JERRY’S LAST JAM: ‘He liked to talk jazz and tell stories,’ son says

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JERRY’S LAST JAM: ‘He liked to talk jazz and tell stories,’ son says

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Benefit being planned for attacked business owner Jerry Gillotti of Gilly's. (Source: Archive)

Anyone who knew him would tell you that Jerry loved a jam. 

Mike Gillotti says jazz artists and fans will gather for one last jazz jam in honor of his late father, Jerry Gillotti

“There is nothing he liked more than hanging out,” Mike said of the owner of Gilly’s Jazz, the iconic club at 132 S. Jefferson St. in downtown Dayton. “He liked to talk jazz and tell stories.” 

Local musicians Hal MeliaRandy Villars and Eddie Brookshire will lead other musicians in “Jam For Jerry” held from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the club. The event is free. 

“I hope that anyone who wants to come down and say goodbye would,” Mike said.

Jerry died on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017.

The 80-year-old was laid to rest Dec. 1 after a Mass of Christian burial at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

“A funeral is one thing and a viewing is good way for closure for the family, but I thought this would be a cool way to say goodbye to my dad,” said Mike, a sales rep for a company that sells computers to car dealerships. 

Jerry died after a long battle with heart and kidney disease, his family said last month. 

He had been severely injured in a robbery and beating outside the nightclub at 132 S. Jefferson St. in March 2016. No arrests have been made.

Mike recounted how his dad called in his liquor order from his hospital bed after having a heart attack in 1999. 

“His monitor went off and they had to take the phone out of the room,” Mike said. “He lived and breathed everything Gilly’s. 

Kalene Gordon, from Dayton watches Jerry Gillotti pour a drink he made for her at Gilly's Niteclub in Dayton, Friday, May 11th. When she got the drink, she said, "I hope this tastes as good as it looks." Later, she confirmed that it did. Behind them at the bar are Danny Bushong, from Kettering (left) and Nita Nordstrom, from the Oregon District. Peter Wine

The club will close permanently on Dec. 31.

“One Last Show with The Doug Hart Band and Eric Jerardi Band” will be held Dec. 29. Doors open at 7 p.m. There is a $12 cover.

A 1962 University of Dayton graduate, Jerry bought Wedgewood Inn on Patterson Road in 1969 and featured jazz acts there two years before he and his brother purchased the former site of Green Derby at 801 N. Main St. and transformed it into Gilly’s. The first show as Gilly’s was Roy Meriwether on July 7, 1972.

Jerry had a passion for Dayton, UD and Flyer basketball, his son said. Jerry fell hard for jazz during his time in the Army while stationed in Frankfurt, Germany.

“He did the impossible -- he had a jazz club in Dayton, Ohio,” Mike said. 
Jerry favored jazz trios, but exposed his son to several different styles. 

Mike recalled the time his dad took him to see Oscar Peterson at the Blue Note in New York and how his dad ribbed Buddy Rich when the jazz drummer played at Gilly’s. 

Under Jerry, Gilly’s became known nationally for jazz. 

Performers booked at Gilly’s through the years include a host of local groups and a laundry list of national acts that include Tony Bennett, Diane SchuurBB King, Wynton Marsalis, Art BlakeyDexter GordonBill EvansGeorge Benson, Herbie Hancock, Count Basie and Bobby Blue Bland.

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s show at Gilly’s sold out even before it could be advertised, Mike said. 

“From my perspective, it was a cool way to grow up,” Mike Gillotti said. “Musicians loved to play (Gilly’s) because the sound was so good in that room. There isn’t a bad sight line in that room.”

Owner Jerry Gillotti (left) brings out Walter Beasley at Gilly's Niteclub in Dayton, Friday, May 11th. Peter Wine
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