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Kathryn Bailey

1930 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Kathryn Bailey Obituary
Kathryn Bailey


The perilously talented Kathryn Bailey, mother, jazz pianist, breast cancer survivor and resident of the Menlo Park and Palo Alto areas, died recently at the age of 86.

Born in Altadena, CA in 1930, she grew up in Bakersfield, the daughter of Donald and Blanche Bailey, and graduated from East Bakersfield High School. Early on, while taking piano lessons, she was allowed to learn one jazz song per month, provided she mastered her Haydn and Bach.

She came to the bay area in the late 1940s, earned a BA from San Francisco State in 1953, and took graduate-level courses in music composition at UC Berkeley. At SF State she wrote the comic opera La Bovine, which was produced twice by Jules Irving, and began a long career as a musician that spanned many decades.

A member of the Local 6 for 36 years, she played for various musicals (including Bye Bye Birdie and The Fantasticks), The Four Freshman, Crew Cuts, Hi-Lows, Sid and Marty Krofft, Buddy Morrow Orchestra, Pat Boone, Anita Bryant, Johnny Mathis, presidential rallies for both Richard Nixon and John Kennedy, and for Billie Holiday during a seven-week residency at Fack's II in San Francisco.

She provided music/lyrics to Ronnie Cass (director of London's Piccadilly Circus Theatre), made multiple mentions in Herb Caen's columns, played with the Unicorns Band on the USS Jeremiah O'Brien, and was featured everywhere from Bimbo's and Circle Star Theatre pit band (for Brazil '77) to many major San Francisco hotels, including a two-year stint at the Sheraton-Palace. She notably turned down two intermission gigs…for Oscar Peterson and Earl Hines.

In later years she enjoyed sharing her love of music through teaching, and also volunteered for Cañada Junior College, Palo Alto VA Hospital, and various other organizations.

She married twice, her second with pianist Al Zulaica produced her only son, Donald Eric Zulaica, who lives in Menlo Park, and has written and edited for several music publications.

In lieu of gifts or flowers, donations can be made to charities of choice related to breast cancer or dementia research, or toward music education in all levels of schooling.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 18, 2016
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