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Early life and rise to fame
Galison was born and raised in New York City, New York. As a child, he started to study piano, but at the age of eight decided to switch to guitar having been inspired by The Beatles. He developed a love of jazz in high school and subsequently attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He decided to change to the harmonica because "I was one of a million guitarists at Berklee" and it was easy to carry around. He became Berklee's only harmonica player. He toured extensively in Europe with Billy Leadbelly (Bill Gough from Hatfield UK). Among his role models at the time were Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder.
He performed at various New York venues including The Village Gate, The Blue Note and the Lone Star Cafe with legendary jazz musicians Jaco Pastorius and Jaki Byard. He also played with his own group at Preacher's Cafe in Greenwich Village.
Collaborations and recordings
Galison has worked with a diverse range of artists including Carly Simon, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Chaka Khan and Astrud Gilberto. He has performed Gordon Jacob's "Suite for Harmonica and Orchestra" and toured the USA in the Broadway musical, Big River. He has also recorded soundtracks for films, most notably Academy Award nominees The Untouchables and Bagdad Café. His harmonica is also heard on the Sesame Street theme ("a great honor") and countless commercials. Other television work includes Oz and Saturday Night Live.
Some of his more notable contributions:
- Anna Maria Jopek - Bosa / Barefoot
- Christy Baron - Steppin'
- Ruth Brown - Songs Of My Life
- Kathie Lee Gifford - Born For You
- John Gorka - Temporary Road
- Deborah Henson-Conant - Talking Hands
- Chaka Khan - Woman I Am
- Peggy Lee - Peggy Lee Songbook
- Maureen McGovern - Baby I'm Yours
- Bob McGrath - Sing Me A Story
- Ivan Neville - Thanks
- Craig Peyton - Tropical Escape
- Craig Peyton - Web
- Ruben Rada - Montevideo
- Jon Secada - Amor
- Louise Taylor - Ride
- Tony Terry - Tony Terry
- Dar Williams - End Of Summer
- Dar Williams - Mortal City
- Bill Gough - Sounds of Hatfield
- Soundtrack - Bagdad Café
- Soundtrack - Bean
- Soundtrack - Crooklyn
- Soundtrack - Prelude To A Kiss
- Soundtrack - Tremors
- Soundtrack - The Truth about Cats and Dogs
- Soundtrack - The Untouchables
- Soundtrack - Way West
- Various Artists - Carols Of Christmas
- Various Artists - Red, Hot & Rio
'Love Letters' by Janet Seidel and William Galison was released in 2001. Seidel is an Australian singer and piano player. ABC Fine Music magazine gave the album a glowing review, saying: "a sheen of quiet sophistication is everywhere apparent."
Got You On My Mind and Madeleine Peyroux
In 2002, Galison met jazz singer and guitarist Madeleine Peyroux in a bar on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York City. They started to play music together and eventually moved in together.
By the end of the year Peyroux had moved out and the couple broken up, but they continued playing together and recorded a seven song CD called Got You on My Mind in February 2003. Peyroux and Galison maintained a stormy on-again-off-again relationship and Peyroux alleges that Galison became abusive at times; Galison denies the allegation.
As Peyroux's career accelerated an acrimonious legal dispute developed. Her contract with Rounder Records prohibited her from selling the Got You on My Mind recording and she stopped performing with Galison. Galison continued to sell the recording and claimed that he was owed payment for canceled performances.
The two artists and Peyroux's record label commenced an extended series of lawsuits and court cases.
Galison uses a wide range of instruments and equipment, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Hohner 270 Chromomica in B
- Hohner 280 '64 Chromonica'
- Hohner 'Toots Hard Bopper' with F&R Farrell 'lifetime comb'
- Hohner 'Toots Mellow Tone' with F&R Farrell 'lifetime comb'
- Filisko blues harps
- Mark Lavoie smoked maple combs
Microphones and other equipment
- Audio Technica ATM45 dynamic microphone
- Trace Elliot Acoustic Cube Amplifier
- Neumann km 54 microphone
- Korg footpedal
- Shure wireless system
Galison has said: "I endorse Hohner, and think they do make the best sounding harmonica."
- 1988: Overjoyed (Polygram)
- 1997: Midnight Sun (Eclipse Collage)
- 2000: Waking Up With You (JVC)
- 2001: Love Letters (with Janet Seidel) (La Brava Music)
- 2004: Got You on My Mind (Wake Up Music)