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Shakatak guitarist Keith Winter back for band’s Bishop’s Stortford gig after 30-year illness lay-off





Jazz funk band Shakatak are back on home turf – and for one original member, the gig at South Mill Arts marks a remarkable recovery from a crippling nerve disorder that ruled him out of action for 30 years.

Guitarist Keith Winter was in the original line-up of the Bishop’s Stortford band that in the early 1980s enjoyed chart success with top 20 singles Easier Said Than Done, Nightbirds – the album of the same name gave them their first gold LP, charting for 28 weeks – and Down on the Street.

After being formed in the late 70s by Keith and Bill Sharpe out of Triad-based trad rock band Tracks, Shakatak enjoyed success throughout the 80s. But Keith’s involvement was cruelly curtailed after he contracted a rare, mystery nerve disorder in 1990 that affected his eyesight and led to him not being able to walk.

Guitarist Keith Winter is back with Shakatak after a 30-year break due to a crippling nerve disorder
Guitarist Keith Winter is back with Shakatak after a 30-year break due to a crippling nerve disorder

As he had no feeling in his hands he was unable to play guitar. After staying with the band for around three years in a non-playing capacity, in his words he eventually “dropped off the musical landscape”.

“It’s ironic because I was super-fit at the time, climbing mountains and all sorts of things,” said Keith.

He was told by doctors there was zero chance of him recovering so he decided to devote his life to being a family man. After 20 years of suffering from the disorder, Keith said things began to improve, but it took him another 10 years to relearn the songs’ guitar parts.

Shakatak are back on home turf at South Mill Arts on Saturday February 3
Shakatak are back on home turf at South Mill Arts on Saturday February 3

He took to the stage at Stortford’s South Mill Arts in November 2021 to mark the band’s 40th anniversary and played the following year at another reunion gig in Milton Keynes.

Tragedy struck in March last year when Keith’s replacement Alan Wormald died suddenly after the band returned from a gig abroad.

Although in tragic circumstances, that was the cue for Keith’s return to the Shakatak fold and, with 50 gigs in the diary, including a 5,000 sell-out concert in Cape Town, South Africa, and 10 dates in Japan, he was back with a bang.

“It does seem a bit of a miracle recovery, but I’ve had a whale of a time since March,” said Keith. “I’ve always loved playing live and I’ve had an absolute ball. I think the band have also enjoyed the energy I’ve brought.”

Keith Winter is back playing guitar after a 30-year break due to a nerve disorder
Keith Winter is back playing guitar after a 30-year break due to a nerve disorder

Shakatak fans can look forward to hearing all the hits at the South Mill Arts gig on Saturday February 3 – played by the original line-up of Roger Odell (drums), Bill Sharpe (keyboards), Keith (guitar), George Anderson (bass) and Jill Saward (vocals) – plus some of the songs on the band’s new album.

“There’s a real energy to the band,” said Keith. “It will be a bunch of jazz funkers doing what we did back in the day.”

For tickets for the gig at the South Road venue see southmillarts.ticketsolve.com.



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