What would Zorro Girl do? That’s a question Patricia Vonne likes to ask herself.
With her fifth CD Rattle My Cage hot off the press, Vonne sizzles with her mix of Latin roots—rock, rock-a-billy and rock-n-roll. She collaborates with some of her most profound musical influences, such as the legendary Alejandro Escovedo, who co-wrote “Ravage Your Heart”. Some of the other co-writers include fellow San Antonian Michael Martin with “Dulce Refugio,” Alex Ruiz from the band Chingon, and hometown chica Rosie Flores, who co-wrote “This Cat’s in the Doghouse.”
“Nothing inspires and thrills me more than to write with those that I admire,” Vonne said. One of those whom she holds in the highest regard is her brother, Robert Rodriguez, the renowned film director and screenwriter who shoots and produces many of his films in their native Texas. He has directed such films as the El Mariachi Trilogy, Spykids, Sin City, and this year’s Machete Kills (in which Vonne has a cameo role.) Not only was her song “Traeme Paz” featured in her brother’s film Once Upon a Time in Mexico, but she has also appeared as an actress in many of Rodriguez’s movies as well. Her favorite is her role as Zorro Girl in Sin City, which she jokes has become her self-proclaimed alter ego. “Sometimes I just ask myself, “What would Zorro Girl do?” she giggled.
In addition, the duo jointly composed the last track on her new CD, a spaghetti-western instrumental called “Mexicali de Chispa.” Growing up as the fourth child of ten in San Antonio, she claims she was so shy that she “hid behind her mother’s skirt,” until she had an epiphany. Her father took her and her brother to see Johnny Reno and the Sax Maniacs. It was then she decided that she would have a voice to express herself, and that voice would also sing in Spanish. She bravely headed out to New York City at the tender age of nineteen to find that voice and pursue her artistic ambitions. In the beginning those were modeling and commercial acting.
“NYC allowed me to grow up and taught me survival instincts. I wanted to be black and blue…not green,” said Vonne. “I wanted to be an artist and front my own band.” Much to her chagrin, she was encouraged to alter her name from Rodriguez. Casting directors and agents felt that she did not look “Mexican enough.” They kept insisting that she had more of a French, Italian or Greek appearance. At the risk of not being pigeon-holed, she decided to drop Rodriguez and go by her first and middle name, Patricia Vonne.
“They tried to take away my heritage, but through my music I get to scream it out loud which is why it is important to me that all my albums are bilingual,” she said. “I am very proud to be Patricia Vonne Rodriguez and am listed as such in my film credits …and, of course, as Zorro Girl.” This pride extends to her own independent label, called Bandolera Records. “It is extremely important to me to remain in control of my own career and to honor my heritage,” Vonne proclaimed.
Her father was a drummer, and her mother, a nurse by profession, played Spanish guitar. Music rolled off Patricia’s fingertips, literally, with castanets, one of her signature talents. “When I was a little girl my mother kept those castanets under lock and key, but somehow I found a way to find them,” Vonne said.
In her formative years in New York City, she was hungry to learn musically, and visually it was difficult to see above the crowds. She soon realized that she could hold the castanets high in the air for audiences to see the unique percussion in her repertoire. It was a lovely form of performance art but also added homage to her Latino roots and her mother.
Around that time, Vonne’s older sister helped her get a job at the renowned China Club as a coat check girl. It was there that she began admiring a talented and handsome guitar player named Robert LaRoche, who became her collaborator both professionally and personally. They just returned from their 22nd European tour, including the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
LaRoche, who is her lead guitar player and with whom she has co-written many songs, was also her husband for ten years. She revealed to LATINO Magazine in this interview that because of irreconcilable differences, they have dissolved the marriage. However, it was never a consideration to end their partnership in their music and their long-lasting friendship. Vonne admits that naturally the separation, and ultimately the divorce, was an arduous period, if not the most difficult time of her life. However, like any great artist, she used her music to heal. She claims that “Dark Mile,” which she co-wrote with the late Doyle Bramhall, is about the pain of losing her marriage. “We are now in a good place. We have known each other for 23 years… were married for 10 and are best friends.” Vonne and LaRoche are currently touring internationally, promoting Rattle My Cage. For touring dates, check out her website at www.patriciavonne.com.
When asked what else the future holds, Vonne replied, “I am just planning to keep on rattling cages and taking each day one at a time. It takes the pressure off.” One would suppose that is what Zorro Girl would do.
Christy McBrayer is a freelance writer and playwright. She is the writer/performer of the original one-woman comedy, “Southern Fried Chickie.” www.southernfriedchickie.com