Born Jose Antonio Torresola Ruiz, he was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. His parents moved from Puerto Rico to the United States in search of a better way of life. In Paterson, Ruiz received his primary and secondary education. As a child he enjoyed singing to the tunes of salsa and as a young man joined a local band called The Charlie Lopez Orchestra. With this band he recorded his first song Salsa Buena. In 1976, Ruiz moved to Mayag?ez, Puerto Rico with his mother after his parents divorced.
In Puerto Rico, Ruiz became a fan of a salsa band called La Solucion, directed by Roberto Rivera and learned all of their songs. He attended every concert and show. On one occasion, Ruiz's mother asked Rivera to give her son an opportunity to sing in the band, but to no avail. However, as fate would have it, in 1977, Ruiz was present at one of their shows where the lead singer did not show up. Rivera felt that he had no other choice but to give Ruiz a try. He was a success and was hired by Rivera. With La Solucion, Ruiz re-recorded a new version of Salsa Buena. He performed with the band for three years and recorded his first hit single La Rueda.
In 1980, Ruiz joined Tommy Olivencia and his Primerisima Orchestra. His youth and style known as Sensual Salsa helped to bring in a new generation of salsa followers. His first major hit was with the band Lo Dudo which was previously covered by Jos? Jos?. In 1983, Ruiz decided to go solo and had hits with Puerto Rico, T? Con El, Mirandote, Desnudate Mujer, Deseandote, La Cura, Bailando, Mi Libertad and many more. He traveled extensively throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States performing and always used the phrases "Vaya, Mi China" (Go, My Baby) and "?Que que?" (What, What?) as his trademarks. He was then called "El Papa de la Salsa" (The Father of Salsa).
On August 9, 1998, Frankie eventually died from liver failure at the age of 40, a month after his final concert at Madison Square Garden . Before his burial, his remains were taken to Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, for a memorial service. He was later interred at Fair Lawn Memorial Cemetery in his native of Paterson, New Jersery