Noone started playing guitar in his home town; at the age of 15 he switched to clarinet and moved to New Orleans, where he studied with Lorenzo Tio. By c. 1912 was playing professionally, with Freddie Keppard in Storyville, and played with Buddy Petit, Kid Ory, Papa Celestin, the Eagle Band, and the Young Olympia Band, before joining the Original Creole Orchestra in Chicago in 1917. The following year joined King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, then in 1920 joined Keppard in Doc Cooke's band which he would remain with for 6 years, and make early recordings with. In 1926 he started leading the band for at Chicago's Apex Club.
In 1935 Noone moved New York City to start a band and a (short lived) club with Wellman Braud. He then returned to Chicago where he played at various clubs until 1943 when he moved to Los Angeles, California, shortly after that he joined Kid Ory's band which made radio broadcasts. He died suddenly from a heart-attack; Kid Ory's band recorded "Blues for Jimmie Noone" in his honor.
Noone is generally regareded as one of the greats of the second generation of jazz clarinetists, along with Johnny Dodds and Sidney Bechet. Noone's playing is not as blues tinged as Dodds nor as flamboyant as Bechet, but is perhaps more lyrical and sophisticated, and certainly makes more use of "sweet" flavoring, than the others. Noone was an important influence on later clarinetists such as Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.