In 1978, Cheatham was invited to lead the jazz program at University of California, San Diego and in 1979 he was appointed head of the African American and jazz performance program there. He retired in 2005.
Cheatham met his wife, Jean Evans, in 1956 in Buffalo, New York, when the local musicians' union chief called them separately to replace two musicians who could not make a job at the local Elks Ballroom. They married in 1959.
In the mid-1980s Cheatham formed The Sweet Baby Blues Band with his wife. The Sweet Baby Blues Band played Kansas City style blues. Cheatham's Sweet Baby Blues album won a French Grand Prix du Disque. Their album Luv in the Afternoon was voted blues album of the year in a 1991 critics poll in Down Beat magazine.
Cheatham's legacy is carried on by several students who went on to become, like him, prominent composer/performer/educators: flutist Nicole Mitchell, bassist Karl E. H. Seigfried, and drummer Vikas Srivastava.
- 1984 Sweet Baby Blues (Concord)
- 1985 Midnight Mama (Concord)
- 1987 Homeward Bound (Concord)
- 1988 Back to the Neighborhood (Concord)
- 1990 Luv in the Afternoon (Concord)
- 1991 Basket Full of Blues (Concord)
- 1993 Blues and the Boogie Masters (Concord)
- 1996 Gud Nuz Bluz (Concord)
- 1984 Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On (Concord)
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 256. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed July 2010
- Mendoza, Bart.Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham: A Life of Music, Joy and Inspiration San Diego Troubadour. 2007-02. Retrieved on 2010-11-15.