Gene Pello's real name was Eugene Pellicci and he went to high school in Santa Monica, playing in bands with Gary Marker, who later became a noted LA musician, working among many others with Captain Beefheart.
In the sixties Pello played in two instrumental combos comprised of LA studio musicians, The Marketts, who had a big hit in 1963 with Out of Limits, and The T-Birds, who scored in 1966 with “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)”. Both groups were made up of studio musicians by Liberty Records as attempts to cash in on the current surf instrumental craze. During the sixties he also played on recordings by The Ventures, The Beach Boys and The Monkees.
Regarding recordings for Motown, he doesn’t appear to be credited for any recordings for the label prior to 1972. There seems to be consensus that he played on the early albums by the Jackson 5, “Diana Ross presents the Jackson 5” (1969), “ABC” (1970) and possibly others. He is credited with playing in the 1970’s on Motown albums by Eddie Kendricks and Smokey Robinson, on a couple of live albums by Diana Ross, and on a few other albums, as well as playing drums in the group Odyssey, which released an eponymous album on Motown’s Californian MoWest subsidiary in 1972.
The lack of credits for Gene Pello on Motown recordings before the audition for Elvis seems odd, considering the description of him by both Ronnie Tutt and Jerry Scheff as a Motown drummer. However, regular Motown practice was that musicians were not listed on albums