According to Danny Bennett, his son and manager, it's no accident that the new audience-fans of alternative rock music-would take so well to the entertainer. It was strategy.
"His feeling was, screw the record companies, screw how many records I sell, I want to do it for my art, and I want to do it as honestly as possible. ... It could have been Pearl Jam saying the same thing," says the younger Mr. Bennett, 40, architect of the entertainer's career revival.
The elder Mr. Bennett told his son he wanted to play to all audiences, yet insisted on singing the pop songs that made him famous in the '50s and '60s. To do this, Danny Bennett decided to expose the entertainer's songs and easy-going persona to younger adults.
Although the strategy was hatched in the mid-1980s and nursed through events such as guest spots on "The Simpsons" and David Letterman's NBC and CBS shows, it blossomed in the past year.
The elder Mr. Bennett appeared with Flea and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers during last fall's MTV awards show. In December, he shared concert bills with alternative bands such as Porno for Pyros, the Cranberries, Belly and Smashing Pumpkins. He also recorded an "MTV Unplugged" show, in which he performed with k.d. lang and Elvis Costello and Evan Dando of the Lemonheads.
The U.S. listening public has responded, and endorsement opportunities have followed. Though the younger Mr. Bennett has been selective, two have gone through: WordPerfect and Arrow shirts.
The singer's latest hit, his rendition of songs written for Fred Astaire, seems entirely appropriate; it's called "Steppin' Out."