Shakatak guitarist Keith Winter set for return gig

PUBLISHED: 18:22 16 September 2009 | UPDATED: 21:54 31 May 2010

Reform of Red Express.

Reform of Red Express.

A CHART-TOPPING musician - struck by illness at the height of his fame and told by doctors that he would never play the guitar again - is preparing for a reunion gig in Saffron Walden. Founding member of 80s pop group Shakatak, Keith Winter from Littlebur

A CHART-TOPPING musician - struck by illness at the height of his fame and told by doctors that he would never play the guitar again - is preparing for a reunion gig in Saffron Walden.

Founding member of 80s pop group Shakatak, Keith Winter from Littlebury, could not play a chord for almost 20 years because of a rare nerve disease, but following an "inexplicable" recovery he is now preparing to go back on stage.

"My auto-immune system went into overload and wiped out my own nerve cells," said the 52-year-old musician. "The disease was so rare that it didn't even have a name. The doctors couldn't help at all.

"To lose the use of your hands is a guitar player's worst nightmare - I couldn't even tie a shoelace. I was always in danger of falling over and I became housebound; it was like I couldn't coordinate my body."

Jazz-funk band Shakatak shot to fame in 1980 and the band's singles and albums regularly entered the charts throughout the decade including the hits "Night Birds" and "Down on the Street".

An established international act, Shakatak had success across Europe, the Far East and North America picking up numerous accolades and awards along the way.

As the electric guitarist Keith was a key component of the band's success, but as the decade drew to a close, and still only in his early 30s, his health began to deteriorate.

"I sold some lovely guitars because I didn't think I would play again - there was a time when I couldn't play a note or even hold a plectrum," said Keith. "The doctors all said I wouldn't improve, but I never gave up hope or saw myself as disabled.

"Then, about two years ago, I started making an inexplicable, but drastic, recovery. I went to see the consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital and he was dumbfounded, his jaw hit the floor."

Keith's condition started to improve as his daughter, Cara Winter - a musician in her own right - started to establish herself as an artist. Performing low-key gigs with his daughter has helped Keith to rebuild his guitar-playing skills.

"Having about 18 years out is quite a gap, but my hands are improving all the time," said Keith. "As for how well I'm playing, you'd have to ask the audience that!"

Keith is now preparing for his biggest gig since his heyday and on Friday October 23 he will reform with Red Express - the band which would later become Shakatak - for a one-off show in Saffron Walden Town Hall.

Tickets for the event are now on sale and can be booked through Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre on the Market Square (01799 524002) or online at www.redexpress.net

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