Bakalis was born in Kanalia, Karditsa prefecture, Thessaly, on June 20, 1920. He took up music at an early age and moved to Athens in 1944. In 1947, he wrote his first song "Κάποια Μάνα αναστενάζει" ("A Mother is sighing"). Over the next years, and especially during the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, Bakalis wrote the music to over 1,500 laika songs which were made hits by such noted singers as Grigoris Bithikotsis, Sotiria Bellou, Vangelis Perpiniadis, Petros Anagnostakis and Stratos Dionysiou. Of special note was his partnership with lyricist Kostas Virvos.