Jazzman Jimmy Noone Dies of Heart Seizure


Jazz clarinetist Jimmy Noone Jr., who carried on the New Orleans clarinet sound invented by his father in the 1920s, died Friday of a heart seizure at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. He was 52.

Noone was admitted to the hospital last Thursday with stomach pain and was diagnosed as having a ruptured spleen. As he was being readied for surgery Friday morning, he suffered cardiac arrest and never regained consciousness.

Noone worked for the U.S. Postal Service for the last 13 years. His death came at a time when his new group, the New Orleans Marching Band and Good Time Society, was building a loyal following.

“He had his own voice, that’s the thing you don’t hear too often nowadays,” said Jeannie Cheatham, who first met Noone at a local jam session in the late 1970s. “I don’t think there’s anybody else left in the world that plays clarinet with that sound. It’s pure New Orleans.”


Noone made his professional debut in 1964, said Cecile Picou, his girlfriend. He made a 1985 album with British horn player John R.T. Davis, and played on five more with San Diegans Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham and their Sweet Baby Blues Band beginning in 1984. The most recent was “Luv in the Afternoon,” released in September.

From 1967 to 1984, Noone taught jazz to students in San Diego city schools, Picou said.

Jazz historians credit Noone’s father, Jimmie Noone Sr., with creating a distinctive clarinet sound that was passed on through several generations.

“His father was the virtuoso of the 1920s,” said Stanley Dance, a jazz critic who lives in Vista. " . . . He was the most influential clarinet at the end of the 1920s. The first time I heard Jimmy here, I was amazed at how much like his father he sounded.”


Noone was born in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles when his father got a job playing on Orson Welles’ radio show in the early 1940s, said Picou, who is writing a biography on Noone Sr., based largely on his son’s recollections.

Noone Sr. died in 1944, and Noone’s mother, Rita, married Texas band leader Troy Floyd, who moved the family to San Diego in 1952. Floyd helped run the Creole Palace, the premier black nightclub downtown.

Noone is survived by a daughter, Lorraine, of San Diego; a brother, John Noone of Orlando, Fla., and a sister, Sylvia Clark of Cincinnati.

His band will perform at public services at 5 p.m. Friday at Calvary Baptist Church, 719 Crosby St., San Diego. Noone will be cremated, and his ashes buried at the veterans’ cemetery on Point Loma.