FORT PIERCE FOLKS
ANTHONY INSWASTY PHOTOS
Gene Hull retired from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines 18 years ago. The former entertainment director moved north from Miami, landing in Fort Pierce.
BY RACHEL CUCCURULLO
For Gene Hull, it all started back in 1893, when his
maternal grandfather came to America from Italy.
His grandfather made and played his own mandolins
and later made sure his daughter (Hull’s mother)
learned to play piano.
Fast forward to the 1930s, when it was almost unheard of
to see a female band leader. Marge Hull, Gene’s mother, was
a band leader during this era and made her living doing so.
Her group was called “Marge Hull & Her Melody Boys,”
and Gene attributes a large part of his interest in music to his
mother’s career choice.
“She was always very easy-going and me and both siblings
played music,” Hull said. “She actually played piano for
silent films from 12 to 15 years old. I started playing clarinet
at 9 years old and then moved on to the alto sax.”
Hull was raised during The Great Depression in Bridgeport,
Connecticut. He clearly remembers carrying around his
alto saxophone in a pillowcase because his family was not
able to afford a hard case at the time.
“At that age, I saw a stage show with Benny Goodman, the
famous clarinetist, and his band,” Hull said. “I just thought,
wow, I want to do that.”
During his teen years, Hull would ride the bus to attend
Big Band Night at The Ritz Ballroom in Bridgeport every
week. At 15, he hoped to catch a big break and be asked to
take the lead alto’s place in case of an absence.
“Of course, that didn’t happen. It was just me dreaming
like kids tend to do.”
Soon after marrying his first wife, Connie, Hull spent a
few years on the road traveling with bands. Although it was
tough to be away from home for extended periods of time,
his wife was very supportive and knew it made them a living
and was what he loved.
“When I graduated from Notre Dame in 1952, I started
traveling on the road with the ‘Big Bands’ as they called them
back in those days,” Hull said. “There was no guitar and
The JAZZ MUSICIAN