William Galison

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William Alexander Galison (born 19 February 1958) is an American harmonica player.[1]

Early life[edit]

Galison was born and raised in New York City. As a child, he started to study piano, but at the age of eight he decided to switch to guitar, having been inspired by The Beatles. He developed a love of jazz in high school and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He decided to change to the harmonica because "I was one of a million guitarists at Berklee"[1] and it was easy to carry around.[2] He became Berklee's only harmonica player. He toured extensively in Europe with Billy Leadbelly (Bill Gough from Hatfield UK).[1] Among his role models at the time were Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder.[1]

After Berklee, he studied at Wesleyan University, then returned to New York City in 1982.[1]

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.[1]

Collaborations and recordings[edit]

Galison has worked with Carly Simon, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Chaka Khan, Steve Tyrell, and Astrud Gilberto. He performed Gordon Jacob's "Suite for Harmonica and Orchestra" and toured the US in the Broadway musical, Big River. He has recorded soundtracks for films, most notably Academy Award nominees The Untouchables and Bagdad Café.[1] His harmonica is also heard on the Sesame Street theme ("a great honor")[2] and commercials.[1] Other television work includes Oz and Saturday Night Live.[3]

One of his major influences and role models, Toots Thielemans, once described him as "the most original and individual of the new generation of harmonica players".[1]

Got You On My Mind and Madeleine Peyroux[edit]

In 2002, Galison met jazz singer and guitarist Madeleine Peyroux in a bar in Greenwich Village.[4] They started to play music together and eventually moved in together.[4]

By the end of the year Peyroux had moved out and the couple had broken up, but they continued playing together and recorded a seven-song CD called Got You on My Mind in February 2003.[4] Peyroux and Galison maintained an intermittent relationship, and Peyroux alleged that Galison became abusive at times; Galison denied the allegation.[4]

Peyroux's contract with Rounder Records prohibited her from selling the Got You on My Mind recording, and she stopped performing with Galison.[4] Galison continued to sell the recording and claimed that he was owed payment for canceled performances.[4] The two artists and Peyroux's record label commenced an extended series of lawsuits and court cases.[4]


As leader or co-leader[edit]

  • Overjoyed (Polygram, 1988)
  • Midnight Sun (Eclipse Collage, 1997)
  • Waking Up with You (JVC, 2000)
  • Got You on My Mind with Madeleine Peyroux (Wake Up Music, 2004)

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jazz Police
  2. ^ a b NPR interview, 2004
  3. ^ WILLIAM GALISON Jazz harmonica player
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Skinner, David (December 2005). "The Sound and the Fury". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 1 December 2012.

External links[edit]