One of three Bates brothers who played bass, Jim Bates became one of the top players on his instrument in the Tulsa, OK, area. While some much better-known musicians spout platitudes about fusion and finding a meeting ground for various genres of American music, Bates actually walks the talk through his regular activities in a variety of styles of jazz, country, and Western swing. His first bass teachers were his brothers -- needless to say, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother, but these basses sure are heavy" might have been their variation on the Hollies' hit song. Both Bob Bates and Norman Bates were members of Dave Brubeck's combo at various times. In the late '40s, just about to escape forever from his teen years, Jim Bates headed from his native Idaho out to San Francisco, where he gigged with many casual bands, some of them playing jazz.
From 1951 through 1953 he was in the Army, then relocated to Los Angeles, where he was once again active as a freelancer, often in commercial dance bands. The most solid mainstream jazz bassists were idols to Bates -- players such as Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, and Paul Chambers. After a decade or so, he headed for Oklahoma, where his range of activities is enough to suggest a gusher, not of oil but of community music activities. Bates plays regularly with the Tulsa Philharmonic and the Oklahoma Sinfonia, plays almost nightly on the regional Sam Jones television broadcast as a member of the Sonny Gray Trio, and is in the pit for well-received local musical productions such as Forever Plaid, Honky Tonk Angels, and Forever Always. The latter show presents the story of the great country singer Patsy Cline, whose material would be a natural for any musician who likes to combine elements of jazz, pop, and country.
In 1995, the bassist was selected by a state cultural exchange program as a musical ambassador to Russia. He also teaches both guitar and bass at the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University. He has recorded with local Western swing outfit the Tractors and also has a longstanding playing relationship with Tommy Crook, an extremely honest guitarist.