Overshadowed through the years by his contemporary, Wally Rose, Burt Bales was a talented stride and ragtime pianist in his own right. He started playing piano when he was 12 and worked in California in the 1930s in various hotel and dance bands. Bales became part of the 1940s San Francisco jazz movement when he started playing with Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band, but he was soon drafted (1943) and never officially recorded with the group (other than a session in which they were joined by Bunk Johnson). Poor eyesight resulted in his discharge from the service, and Bales led a band during 1943-1946 before becoming the solo pianist at the 1018 Club in San Francisco for several years. After stints with Turk Murphy (1949-1950), Bob Scobey, and Marty Marsala, Bales mostly performed as a solo pianist (1954-1966), often at Pier 23 in San Francisco. Although he spent a period outside of music working with electronics, Bales was active on at least a part-time basis until near his death. Bales recorded as a leader for Good Time Jazz (1949-1950), Arhoolie, ABC-Paramount, Euphonic (1975), and in a pickup group for the Sacramento Jazz Society.
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