William Galison is an American jazz musician, most famous as a harmonica player but also known as a multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer.

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. Among his role models at the time were Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder.

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.

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.

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

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,

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:

'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.

Got You On My Mind and Madeleine Peyroux

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First meeting, tour, they move in together:

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 in May of that year and toured up and down the East Coast of the US for the next 14 months as a duo; later as a trio and a quartet. Galison acted as Peyroux's musical director and arranger.

Peyroux moved in with Galison and they shared a residence from July 2002 to February 2003. In February they recorded a seven song CD called Got You on My Mind (henceforth referred to as GYOMM) which they sold at their live shows. It was essentially a good-quality demo. Galison had recruited an impressive set of back-up musicians including Bob Dylan's bassist Tony Garnier and Saturday Night Live's drummer Sean Pelton on three tracks, with Rod Stewart's bassist Conrad Korsch and Conan O'Brien's drummer James Wormworth on the rest. Carly Simon appeared very briefly, speaking one line. By August of that year, they had played a great many shows including a performance with the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra. Peyroux was by then signed to Rounder Records, a division of Universal.

Various legal problems then arose from conflicting accounts of who held the copyright to the recordings. Peyroux's attorney Jeff Greenberg played a large part in creating confusion over the matter, as explained below.

In August 2003, Peyroux abruptly, and without explanation, stopped performing with Galison. He was quoted as saying "We were romantically involved. She lived with me, she was eating my food. We were romantically involved and we had an amazing act. But suddenly she stopped working with me." At around the same time, Greenberg unsuccessfully attempted to get Galison to sell him the rights to GYOMM.

The expanded version of the album:

In December 2003, Galison informed Rounder of his intention to add new tracks to GYOMM and release it as a full album, as he was entitled to do as joint owner of the material. Rounder were shocked by this because their forty-seven-page contract with Peyroux claimed that she had the sole commercial rights to the CD. Galison's name didn't appear anywhere in the contract.

He decided on the additional material and carried out some minor overdubbing. He added two instrumentals and a track from early 2004, as well as a track (Flambee Montalbanese) that he recorded with the German ensemble Quadra Nuevo in 1999.

Galison sings on four of the eleven tracks, twice with Peyroux. His voice has been described favorably as "somewhere between Paul Simon and James Taylor".

Due to Greenberg's misrepresentation of the ownership of the album to Rounder, and because the expanded version of GYOMM would be ready six months prior to the release of Careless Love, Rounder threatened to cancel Peyroux's contract immediately.

In December 2003, a letter from Greenberg said: "it is the position of our client and Rounder that if Mr. Galison or his designees proceed in the manner described... such claims will give rise to material breach of the agreement between Mr. Galison and Ms. Peyroux concerning exploitation of the recording, tortious interference with the contractual relationship between Ms. Peyroux and Rounder Records, infringement of Ms Peyroux's rights in the recordings and her performance thereon, unauthorized use of our client's name, likeness and trademark, false designation of origin under the Lanham act and violation of various state and common law unfair competition and unfair trade laws. Ms. Peyroux and Rounder records will advise any third party seeking to sell, distribute or otherwise exploit any of the recordings that such release is unauthorized and actionable."

Unfounded allegations:

Greenberg then claimed, "Over the course of this year, we have obtained directly and from Ms. Peyroux, evidence of numerous incidents of physically and verbally abusive behavior by Mr. Galison against Ms. Peyroux." and additionally that "Mr. Galison has also made documented claims and threats against Ms. Peyroux and her business representatives, which caused her to contemplate filing criminal harassment charges against Mr. Galison."

Peyroux denied these allegations under oath, saying "I've never said I was physically abused by Mr. Galison. And that's something we went over last time, and I answered the same way."

Despite this, Greenberg made these allegations known to Rounder and to Cynthia Herbst, Peyroux's manager. He also made the claim that Galison had violated a "verbal agreement" that prohibited him from selling GYOMM outside of Peyroux's live shows. Greenberg hasn't provided any evidence that such an agreement ever existed.

Libel claim against Greenberg and Peyroux:

As a result of Greenberg's unfounded claims, Galison's attorney demanded an immediate recantation, but received no response from either Greenberg or Peyroux. Peyroux later testified that she had been unaware of the existence of any letter from Galison's lawyer.

NPR interview and Echomusic:

On January 18, 2003, Galison appeared on NPR's 'Weekend Edition' to announce the imminent release of GYOMM. The day after the interview, publisher Echomusic received hundreds of pre-orders. However, a day later, Greenberg sent a letter to Echomusic warning that selling the album would be "violative of Ms. Madeleine's rights, including without limitation, her ownership rights in seven of the recordings on the Album (the "Masters"), her authorship rights in a composition on the album (the "Composition"), and rights to the use of her name, likeness and biographical material in connection with the advertising and sale of the Album. Such sales would also interfere with the contractual relations of Ms. Madeleine and Rounder Records."

According to U.S. copyright law, Galison was within his rights to promote and sell the CD.

Galison contacts the owners of Rounder Records:

In an attempt to avoid legal action, Galison made contact with the owners of Rounder, Ken Irwin and Bill Nowlin. Galison urged them to tell Greenberg to recognize his ownership - which would defuse the situation.

Irwin responded that the situation was being handled by Rounder's legal department and he wouldn't be getting involved. Irwin subsequently attempted to have a 'protective order' placed against Galison due to 'harassing emails'; an allegation that was disproved when Galison supplied copies of the entire email exchange that were found to contain nothing that could be described as harassment.

The Federal civil complaint:

In April 2004, Galison filed a complaint against Greenberg, Greenberg's firm and Peyroux in the Federal civil court for tortuous interference, libel and for a judgment establishing his joint ownership of GYOMM. Upon arriving in court, Peyroux's lawyers provided an affidavit stating that Greenberg had been mistaken when he claimed Galison would be guilty of copyright infingement and that Galison was indeed joint owner of the album and joint author of the song 'Playin'.

Despite this admission, Peyroux's lawyers argued that the case was not about copyrights and shouldn't be held in Federal court. The lawyers insisted that though they had been wrong about Galison's ownership of GYOMM, he was still forbidden from selling the album due to a verbal agreement with Peyroux that restricted him to selling it at her shows. No evidence of such a verbal agreement has ever been produced.

The Supreme Court Case:

In September 2005, Galison filed a $1 million lawsuit against Peyroux, Jeffrey Greenberg and Rounder Records. Galison said that he had had an agreement with Peyroux to tour and support the album, but that her attorney had attempted to sever their professional relationship through a disinformation campaign once Peyroux had been in contact with Rounder. This partly consisted of unfounded allegations of abuse.

Galison insisted that none of the allegations involved physical touching, telling United Press International, "I never touched her inappropriately, ever."

Another aspect of the lawsuit was an allegation of "trade libel" due to 'his' album being passed off to Universal, parent company of Rounder, as a demo solely owned by Peyroux, helping her to win a contract with them.

Peyroux subsequently countersued Galison for $5 million for various claims, most of which were dismissed. The two remaining claims are a motion for accounting and a motion for damages due to use of her name and picture on the album's cover.

The case continues to rumble on, although Galison is keen to end it amicably and to that end wrote an 'Open letter' to Madeleine Peyroux giving his account of what had happened and why and how she could end all the legal problems very easily if she chose to.

Campaigner for Judicial Reform:

As a result of his experience with litigation connected with Madeliene Peyroux and her lawyer Jeff Greenberg, Galison has dedicated much of his time to campaigning against corruption in in the judiciary of New York State. The primary objects of Galison's reform efforts are the so-called "oversight agencies" that are mandated to enforce rules and laws regulating the behavior of judges and lawyers, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, and the various Departmental "grievance committees", respectively.

His gear

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."