William Galison

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William Alexander Galison (born 19 February 1958) is an American jazz musician, widely known as a harmonica player, but also known as a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer.[1]

Early life and rise to fame[edit]

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"[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 further at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, then returned to New York in 1982. He swiftly developed a good reputation as a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist.[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 a diverse range of artists including Carly Simon, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Chaka Khan, Steve Tyrell 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.[1] His harmonica is also heard on the Sesame Street theme ("a great honor")[2] and countless 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]

Some of his more notable contributions:

Love Letters[edit]

'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."

Seidel and Galison toured Queensland, Australia's jazz clubs to promote the album, which was well received by audiences and critics alike.[4]

Got You On My Mind and Madeleine Peyroux[edit]

In 2002, Galison met jazz singer and guitarist Madeleine Peyroux in a bar on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York City.[5] They started to play music together and eventually moved in together.[5]

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.[5] Peyroux and Galison maintained a stormy on-again-off-again relationship and Peyroux alleges that Galison became abusive at times; Galison denies the allegation.[5]

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.[5] Galison continued to sell the recording and claimed that he was owed payment for canceled performances.[5]

The two artists and Peyroux's record label commenced an extended series of lawsuits and court cases.[5]

His gear[edit]

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[edit]

Galison has said: "I endorse Hohner, and think they do make the best sounding harmonica."[3]



External links[edit]