Michael Bowles was born in Riverstown, Co. Sligo. He joined the Army School of Music in 1932 and obtained a Mus.B from University College Dublin in 1936. He trained as a conductor under Colonel Fritz Brasé and joined Radio Éireann as conductor of the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra in 1941. In 1942, he resigned from the army and became the first full-time director of music at Radio Éireann. In 1948, he became conductor of the National Orchestra of New Zealand. He later moved to the USA in 1954 to take up a professorship at Indiana University and returned to Ireland in 1970.
His compositional output, although small, includes several songs, many of which were broadcast by RTÉ.