James Melvin "Jimmie" Lunceford (June 6, 1902 – July 12, 1947) was an American jazz alto saxophonist and bandleader in the swing era.
Lunceford was born in Fulton, Mississippi. Little is known about his parents, though his father was a choirmaster in Warren, Ohio, before the family moved to Denver. He went to high school in Denver and studied music under Wilberforce J. Whiteman, father of Paul Whiteman, whose band was soon to acquire a national reputation. After high school he continued his studies at Fisk University. During 1922, Lunceford played alto saxophone in a local band led by George Morrison which included Andy Kirk, another musician destined for fame as a bandleader.
In 1927, while teaching at Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee, he organized a student band, the Chickasaw Syncopators, whose name was changed to the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra when it began touring. Lunceford was the first high school band director in Memphis. This band recorded in 1927 and 1930. After a period of touring, the band accepted a booking at the Harlem nightclub The Cotton Club in 1934. The Cotton Club had already featured Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, who won their first widespread fame from their inventive shows for the Cotton Club's all-white patrons. Lunceford's orchestra, with their tight musicianship and often outrageous humor in their music and lyrics made an ideal band for the club, and Lunceford's reputation began to steadily grow.