Gene Dunlap was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and he began playing drums as a high school student. He joined the guitarist Earl Klugh as a drummer. In later years, he also performed with Roy Ayers, who played the vibraphone, and guitarist Grant Green.
Afterward, he rejoined Earl Klugh during the mid-1970s, to record a series of albums during a period of 20 years, including some albums for Capitol Records. After 1994, Dunlap quit performing and taught inner city youth in Detroit, but returned as a bandleader/drummer in April 2000, with Tales of the Phatman, his second album.