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'80s rocker keeps rolling on

Sunday, January 08, 2012, By Jim Six/South Jersey Newspapers

Reesa and the Rooters —Maureen Simmons, left, and Reesa MarchettiiNothing keeps a true rock-and-roller down.

In the 1980s, new wave singer-writer Reesa Marchetti was well-known for her outrageous performances, jumping on and off and all around the stage.

These days, Reesa is trying to learn how to operate her new handicapped van — but that doesn't mean she's not still jamming.

(Reesa and the Rooters —Maureen Simmons, left, and Reesa Marchetti — at the Bus Stop Music Cafe in Pitman.)

Born in Philadelphia, raised in Cherry Hill and now a Glassboro resident, Reesa has played music since starting piano and violin lessons as a toddler. She got her first real guitar — a Silvertone — when she was in the sixth grade and never looked back. After some folk and classical guitar lessons, she decided she'd rather play like Chuck Berry and proceeded to school herself.

In the late 1960s she, like many others, ended up in the San Francisco area.

"I just played my guitar. I took it with me everywhere I went and played out on the street with my case open" for tips.

"I just got better and better," she said.

It was while she was playing with a band called Rosie after she'd come back East that she met Dan Marchetti, a motorcyclist who would eventually be her husband.

"We played a lot of seedy places," she recalled. "There weren't that many people in the bar, a kind of rough crowd. Halfway through one of our sets, a fight broke out on the dance floor and, within minutes, the entire place was cleared out."

She met Dan that night, after the fight.

"That was our relationship, seedy bars and motorcycles," she said. "We started hanging out and we just never stopped, and eventually we made it official."

Reesa got tired of playing Rolling Stones' cover songs, though.

"I was still a crazy hippie and we just wanted to do anything crazy," she said.

She booked herself at the old Red Oak Tavern on Route 45 just south of Woodbury as Reesa and the Rooters.

"We played oldies, but speeded everything up," she said. "We wore crazy outfits, went super crazy."

She found a kids' space helmet in the Woolworth's in Woodbury and decided wearing it fit in perfectly with the music she was playing.

She went to Philadelphia and — this wasn't illegal then — plastered downtown with posters for Reesa and the Rooters, often while wearing her space helmet. The band went viral way before YouTube.

"Suddenly, everyone knew of Reesa and the Rooters," she said.

Still, she wasn't satisfied. So she launched a side project that soon became a main project — Suburban Wives Club.

"My thing was to write stupid songs. Suburban Wives Club was famous for the song, 'Causal Cat at a Laundromat.' Everyone was walking around saying that," said Reesa.

So the Rooters faded away. Suburban Wives Club cut a 45-rpm single — that was still a big deal back in the 1980s — and Reesa promoted the heck out of it.

"I was a fanatic. I had a typewriter and was sending letters and getting them copied, called college after college and radio DJs," she said.

"I was a nut for my music. It wasn't to be famous, it was to be able to play my music," she said.

Still, she was singing and playing, "making the same money I was making in 1970," so she decided to go to school and study journalism and started learning more about computers and the Internet.

She got hired as a part-time writer at Today's Sunbeam in Salem, eventually went full time and stayed for about five years.

She was also learning how to write HyperText Markup Language, or HTML, which is what's used to design pages that appear on the Internet. Which is how she wound up as the president of Sheer Web LLC, a web design, web hosting company.

All along, Reesa kept playing off and on. And in 1998, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

"There were signs before that. At the Sunbeam, we would go out for lunch, walk around the corner and someone would ask why I was limping. I'd make excuses. I didn't want to face the fact that something was not quite right," she said.

After she started falling for no reason, she saw a doctor and, eventually, was diagnosed as having MS.

"The diagnosis was very devastating. The first neurologist had a terrible bedside manner. He said, 'Here's a pamphlet, come back and see me next week.' I thought I was going to die," said Reesa.

Now, she works — and plays — around it, these days in a wheel chair.

Reesa playing keyboardFollowing her creation of a website called relivethe80s.com, and her appearance in some tribute and reunion concerts, she decided, in 2005, to "be a band again."

Fine tuning Reesa and the Rooters has resulted in a marriage between technology and artistry — which you can check out at reesaandtherooters.com.

She now plays and programs songs into her keyboard and she and singer Maureen Simmons take the show on the road.

Currently she is on hiatus — which means she hasn't had time to program more songs for performances. When that happens, she'll be looking for new bookings.

In the meantime, she's getting accustomed to that new van.

"My expectations were too high. There's a lot of learning how to drive it and get in and out with a power chair," she said.

(Reesa Marchetti poses outdoors with keyboard.)

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