Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


RUIZ, Frankie

(b José Antonio Ruiz, 10 March 1958, Paterson NJ; d 9 August 1998) Salsa singer. Began with local trios at age five, listened to Puerto Rican soneros (improvising salsa singers) Andy Montañez, Cheo Feliciano and Marvin Santiago, and began singing salsa at nine. Rock drummer/bassist Joe Manny recruited Ruiz to sing with Charlie López and La Orquesta Nueva, formed '71; he made his debut on one-take live demos of two tracks intended for shopping for a record deal ('Salsa Buena', written by Ruiz, and 'Borinquen' were issued '93 as a CD single by Charlie López y La Orquesta Nueva - Canta: Frankie Ruiz). The band included 14-year-old trombonist Nelson Moreno, who with his brother Willie (bongo, campaña, güiro, clave) was a member of López's Conjunto Constanza; Nelson (who also sings and plays maracas and güiro) and Willie went on to form the successful band Los Hermanos Moreno late '80s.

Meanwhile Ruiz moved with his mother '74 to Mayagüez on the west coast of Puerto Rico, where he sang with the groups La Dictadora and La Moderna Vibración; she took him to gigs '77 by Mayagüez-based band La Solución, trying to sell him to the band, and when they discovered that he'd learned all their material, they signed him up. Of two albums, the first on PDC (reissued as Frankie Ruiz y La Solución '96 on Canal) including a new version of 'Salsa Buena'. The second album Orquesta La Solución '80 on LAD (a subsidiary of TH Records at the time) included hits 'La Rueda' ('The Wheel'), since regarded a classic, and 'La Vecina' ('The Neighbour'). Veteran bandleader Tommy Olivencia then hired Ruiz to sing co-lead; his first track with this band was 'Viajera', on the label roster showcase Primer Concierto De La Familia TH '81. In three years with Olivencia Ruiz made as many hit albums: Un Triángulo De Triunfo! '81, Tommy Olivencia '83 and oCelebrando Otro Aniversario '84, and sang lead on 'Que Se Mueran De Envidia' ('Let Them Die From Envy'), for another showcase Segundo Concierto De La Familia TH '83. The monster Ruiz/Olivencia hit 'Lo Dudo' ('I Doubt It') from the third album was a salsafied version of a ballad by the Mexican star José José, now regarded as a milestone in the development of salsa romántica. Ruiz garnered Farándula magazine Diplo awards for Best Salsa Vocalist '84-5; three of his other big hits with Olivencia were written by veteran former heart-throb singer/composer Raúl Marrero and arranged by guitarist/arranger Máximo Torres, who went on to become the director and arranger of the Salsa Selection band, which accompanied his son, singer Max Torres, on the salsa romántica hits Sensualmente Tropical and Aprenderé! '88-9.
Ruiz's popularity having outgrown his position with Olivencia, the TH bosses at the time (executive producer Tony Moreno, producer Frank Torres and recording director Julio César Delgado) launched his solo career; his first album Solista ... Pero No Solo '85 topped the Billboard tropical/salsa chart as well as Puerto Rican and Latin American charts; with two no. 1 hit singles and five top tens it was one of the most successful salsa albums of the '80s and won Best Tropical/Salsa Album in the first Billboard Latin Awards '86. Voy Pa'Encíma! ('Going For The Top') '87 yielded six hits, including his biggest, 'Desnúdate Mujer' ('Take Off Your Clothes, Woman'), and also did well in Spain. He was the Billboard Tropical/Salsa Artist of the Year '87. Historia Musical de Frankie Ruiz, a compilation of 14 tracks with La Solución, Olivencia and his own band, was a runaway hit late '87. All this led to an escalation of a drug habit acquired in his teens, and he served two short prison terms. TH (which became TH-Rodven, then just Rodven) tried but failed to get him back in the studio to re-record vocals for En Vivo Y A Todo Color! ('Live And In Full Colour') '88, and his emotive voice sounded strained on half the tracks, but on Mas Grande Que Nunca ('Bigger Than Ever') '89 he sounded rested and back on form, reaching no. 1 early '90. Mi Libertad ('My Liberty') '92 was ready for Frankie to add lead vocals on release from prison, and went to no. 2 in the Farándula chart. In '93 Ruiz received a Farándula Diplo award for Salsa Comeback, and Puerto Rico Soy Tuyo '93 made the Farándula top ten. Hits continued with Mirandote '94 and Tranquilo '96 on Rodven.