Gene was born in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1929. His father worked for Gene Autry when he was on the touring circuit.
When Gene was 3 years old, he started trick roping in an act with his brother Don, 5. They trick roped for 12 consecutive years for rodeos held at Madison Square Gardens in New York City.
Gene and Don were named World Champion Juvenile trick ropers in 1936. As Gene got older, he still trick roped with his brother, but started roping calves at rodeos and later added Steer Wrestling.