The Beautiful South was an English pop/rock group formed at the end of the 1980s by two former members of Hull group The Housemartins, Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway, both of whom performed lead and backing vocals. Other members throughout the band's tenure were former Housemartins roadie Sean Welch (bass), Dave Stead (drums) and Dave Rotheray (guitar). After the band's first album (recorded as a quintet), they were joined by a succession of female vocalists, all of whom performed lead and backing vocals alongside Heaton and Hemingway – Briana Corrigan for albums two and three, followed by Jacqui Abbott for the fourth through seventh albums, and finally Alison Wheeler for the final three Beautiful South albums.The group broke up in January 2007, claiming the split was due to "musical similarities", having sold around 15 million records worldwide. In January 2009, it was announced that the former members Dave Hemingway, Alison Wheeler, and Dave Stead would reform under the name "New Beautiful South" which was later changed to "The South".HistoryThe Beautiful South was originally conceived as a quintet with two lead vocalists, Heaton and Hemingway. Rotheray and Heaton, meanwhile, co-wrote the band's compositions.On the band's first album, Briana Corrigan was featured as a background vocalist; she was promoted to full membership status in 1990, and thereafter featured as a lead vocalist on numerous Beautiful South tracks, which helped to characterise the bittersweet kitchen sink dramas played out in Heaton's often barbed songs. Also important to the band's sound was studio keyboard player Damon Butcher, who, though never an official member of the group, played virtually all the piano and keyboard parts on the band's albums.The band's first album Welcome to the Beautiful South was released in 1989 and spawned the hits "Song For Whoever" and "You Keep It All In". The release of 1990s Choke album saw the band claim its only Number 1 hit, "A Little Time". 0898 Beautiful South followed in 1992, with hits including "Old Red Eyes Is Back". Both albums featured Pete Thoms and Gary Barnacle on brass and woodwind.In 1992, Corrigan left the band to pursue a solo career, a decision that was prompted partly by a desire to record and promote her own material (which she felt was not getting enough exposure in The Beautiful South) and partly by ethical disagreements with some of Heaton's lyrics, particularly songs such as "36D", which criticised British glamour models and the industry that employed them. Hemingway later remarked, "We all agree that we should have targeted the media as sexist instead of blaming the girls for taking off their tops".In 1994, St Helens supermarket shelf-stacker Jacqui Abbott was brought on board to fill in as the new third lead vocalist for the band. Heaton had heard her sing at an after-show party in St Helens and remembered her vocal talents. Heaton referred to her as "the lass from the glass" – a reference to the Pilkington factory in St Helens.Abbott's first album with the band was Miaow in 1994. Hits included "Good as Gold (Stupid as Mud)" and a cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'", previously popularised by Harry Nilsson. November of that year saw the release of Carry on up the Charts, a "best of" compilation consisting of the singles to date plus new track "One Last Love Song". The album was a huge commercial success, securing the Christmas number one spot on the charts and becoming the second best selling album of the year.In 1995, the band was one of the support acts for R.E.M. on the British leg of their world tour. On this tour the band played an extra night when Oasis pulled out of their Huddersfield appearance. The Beautiful South played "Some Might Say" and dedicated it to any Oasis fans at the gig.The 1996 album Blue Is the Colour sold over a million copies and featured hit singles "Rotterdam" and "Don't Marry Her". The album demonstrated the band's gradual shift towards a country music sound, and was well received by the public and on BBC and commercial radio. In 1997 the Beautiful South headlined stadium concerts for the first and last time, in Huddersfield and at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London. Support for the Huddersfield concert was provided by Cast.The album Quench (1998) was released with similar commercial success, again reaching number one in the UK album charts. "Perfect 10", the first single to be released from the album also provided the band with uncharacteristic singles chart success. The album is also notable for being more up tempo and being the first where Norman Cook was used in a consultancy role.Painting It Red (2000) followed. The album suffered promotion and touring difficulties, and a substantial number of the CDs were faulty. Jacqui Abbott left the band shortly afterwards. After a second Greatest Hits album Solid Bronze in 2001, the band took time off and Heaton embarked on his first solo project.Regrouping in 2003, they recorded Gaze with yet another female vocalist, Alison Wheeler. Wheeler was still in place for 2004's Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs, which was an album of unusually arranged cover tunes including "Livin' Thing", "You're The One That I Want", "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "I'm Stone in Love With You". One track from the album, "This Old Skin", was presented as a cover of a song by an obscure band called the The Heppelbaums; it was later revealed to be an original Heaton/Rotheray composition.The band's final album Superbi was released on 15 May 2006. It was recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios, a farm in Bakewell and at producer Ian Stanley's studio in Enniskerry, County Wicklow. It was mixed by Bill Price (Sex Pistols, The Clash, Guns N' Roses). Paul Heaton's hand is recognisable in quirky song titles such as "The Rose of My Cologne", "The Cat Loves The Mouse" and "Never Lost A Chicken to a Fox". The first single, "Manchester", started off as a poem – "If rain makes Britain great, then Manchester is greater" – 'a sodden tribute' to the city in which he now lives, says Heaton.Split and solo careersAfter a band meeting on 30 January 2007, they decided to split. They released a statement on 31 January 2007, in which they joked their reasons for splitting were "musical similarities" – an ironic reference to "musical differences" which are often cited as the reason for a band's split. "The band would like to thank everyone for their 19 wonderful years in music," the statement also said.Since the split, Dave Rotheray has released a solo album called The Life of Birds; Paul Heaton has released two solo albums The Cross Eyed Rambler (2008) and Acid Country (2010). Dave Hemingway, at the time of the split, released a collection of songs on an album called Hello Cruel World.Dave Hemingway, Dave Stead and Alison Wheeler, plus six new members formed The New Beautiful South in 2008 and later renamed as The South in 2010, with Debbie Johnston as back up. The band have continued to perform Beautiful South songs in concert and released two new songs: "Stick it in and Turn it" and "The Entertainer". A new album is due for release in November and will be distributed by Universal Records. The recording for this is now complete. The album was recorded at CowShed Studios in London during June and July 2012. It is available under the title Sweet Refrains since December 2012.In May 2007 the band's music was used in a jukebox musical entitled The Slide (book by Adrian Davis). It was premiered at the Phoenix Theatre, Swindon.Paul Heaton reunited with The Beautiful South's second female singer Jacqui Abbott in 2013 to record new material. Heaton & Abbott have recorded 16 new songs, due for release on 12 May 2014 on their new album What Have We Become. On working with Abbott once again, Heaton said: "Working with Jacqui again was like going into your garage and discovering a beautiful, covered up Rolls Royce that hadn't been started in years. Jacqui is one of the best singers I've worked with and is also part of my past. It was only a matter of time before I asked her."