Frank Gillis was a pianist, jazz historian, and archivist. As a musician he played traditional-style jazz in the 1930s and 1940s with such greats as Bobby Hackett, Red Nichols, Jack Teagarden and drummer Doc Cenardo. Among their venues was the Ash Trumpet Club in Detroit. He also served as the regular pianist for Doc Evans in the 1950s and 1960s.
Gillis served as the Associate Director of the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University from 1964-1977 and Director from 1977-1981. While at IU, he was instrumental for acquiring a large number of 78 recordings. He was a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology and served as editor of its journal, Ethnomusicology.
Gillis co-authored several books, including Ethnomusicology and Folk Music: An International Bibliography of Dissertations and Theses with Alan P. Merriam (1966), African Music and Oral Data: A Catalog of Field Recordings, 1902-1975 with Ruth M. Stone (1976), Catalog of Indian Folk Music and Folklore with Neil V. Rosenberg (1970). He also wrote a thesis at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Music in the Nineteenth Century: A Guide to Sources and Resources (1958).
Frank Gillis died in 1999 in Grand Marais, MN.
From the guide to the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Gillis, Frank. Collection, 1920-1941, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)