Steve Knightley and Phil Beer met as teenagers while playing in different bands in Exeter, Devon, where they grew up. They eventually got together and for a short period played in pubs and clubs, even undertaking a disastrous
summer tour of Sweden when they were both 16. As school finished, their lives went separate ways. Knightley went to university
in Coventry, collected a degree and teaching qualifications, and ended up in London playing music in a rock band in his spare
time. For Phil Beer the leap to professional musician was immediate. Throughout the years he played with many different people,
including the Arizona Smoke Review and then from 1984 with the Albion Band. In the mid 1980s Knightley returned to live in the West Country, and so he and Phil Beer got together casually to play a few shows. This continued until 1991 when it became obvious that
the partnership had the potential to become a full time career. Beer left the Albion Band and Show of Hands was born.
The first Show of Hands recordings were three cassettes, recorded on home studios. A selection of the best tracks from
those cassettes was later released on the Backlog compilation album in 1995. Their first album was, unusually, a live
album. Recorded at the Bull Hotel in Bridport, Dorset, and titled Live '92, the excellent reviews it garnered helped them break into the festival circuit of 1993. and later that same year they toured with Ralph McTell on his autumn tour.
During 1992 Knightley and Beer were invited to join an inter-cultural music project which involved working with three exiled
Chilean musicians. Out of this the band Alianza was formed and an album made. Alianza toured throughout 1992 and 1993 and influenced the duo greatly. They were introduced
to a new range of rhythms and instruments and Steve was inspired to write songs that are now favourites with Show of Hands
fans including "Santiago", "Armadas" and "Columbus Didn't Find America". Some of these found their way onto the first Show
of Hands studio album Beat about the Bush, which was released in 1994.
In 1995 Show of Hands released their second studio album Lie of the Land. The album proved a turning point as it gathered in a slew of reviews from major publications hailing it as a masterpiece
and a classic. Mojo said the album created "a powerful, fresh sounding music with both integrity and widespread appeal", while
Q magazine called it a "startlingly good" album and went one further in voting it their folk album of the year in 1996.
With thousands of fans on their mailing list, Show of Hands had long wanted to play a concert big enough to gather all
those fans together. Different ideas were brought up but none seemed right until London's Royal Albert Hall was suggested; the perfect venue, prestigious and big enough! The undertaking required a huge gamble by the duo and their
management, but the show sold out in advance and took place on the evening of March 24, 1996.
As is implied by the album name, Covers, the studio album released in 2000, contained only cover versions of songs by other artists. The songs were selected
from ones that the duo had performed at concerts or sound checks over the years, and included music from artists such as Jethro
Tull, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan and Ralph McTell.
In 2001 Show of Hands celebrated their tenth anniversary with another sell out show at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert
was recorded by Carlton TV for network transmission and was shown as two dedicated half-hour programmes.
Their next studio album Cold Frontier was released in 2001 and was the first album to be recorded by Mick Dolan, who took responsibility for the Show of Hands
sound after producer/manager Gerard O'Farrell returned to his native Australia. The Path, the first instrumental album by Show of Hands, was released in 2003 and is a celebration of the sights and sounds of
the West Country coast. Each track is named after a different location, and creates an atmospheric musical portrait of the
sea, and the seaside. In October 2003, the album Country Life was released. This studio recording of Knightley's most recent songs also featured a special bonus CD with alternative
mixes of selected tracks.
Show of Hands won the Best Live Act award at the 2004 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The winnning of that particular award was especially pleasing to the duo as for that year it was voted on by the public
and not by the usual panel of judges. At the 2005 awards they were nominated for Best Duo and were part of the Oysterband Big Session group that won the Best Group award.
For their extensive tour in autumn 2004 the duo temporarily became a trio when they were joined by Miranda Sykes on double
bass and vocals. Although initially reluctant, audience enthusiasm convinced them that the time was right for another Show
of Hands live album. "We realised that we had the raw material to create a double album that would hopefully capture a song,
a set or a moment in all of our musical lives." - Steve Knightley. As You Were, a live double-album, was released in 2005 and comprised 22 tracks recorded at various venues during the autumn tour.
Show of Hands have a strong commitment to remaining directly accessible to their followers, and can usually be found signing
cds and chatting to fans at the end of concerts (sometimes even during the interval). Over 15,000 fans have signed up to their
mailing and e-mailing lists, and receive regular updates on gigs, merchandise and general news. The most die-hard amongst
Show of Hands fans have created their own web emporium (see link below) and are known as Longdogs after a Show of Hands song