Grammy Report #4: Tony Bennett, Other Veterans Triumph

Salsa master Tito Puente, blues legend B.B. King pick up pre-show Grammys.

LOS ANGELES — If 1999 was the year of teen pop, you'd never know it hanging out backstage at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards. One after another, veteran musicians strolled to the mic to meet the media after winning pre-show awards.

Salsa master Tito Puente. Blues sage B.B. King. Crooner Tony Bennett.

There are more than 220 years of living among the three of them, and their confident, modest manner backstage showed they'd been around the block several times before Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were even born.

"It's a lot of work, a lot of years," Puente said.

And a lot of albums. For those counting, the piano, sax and percussion man has racked up 118 discs. His Best Traditional Tropical Latin Performance Grammy for Mambo Birdland marked his fifth statue from 10 career nominations.

"I'm celebrating 50 years as a bandleader," he said. "I feel like this might be my last Grammy. But I wanted to get to the fifth one."

Lord only knows how many B.B. King may still rack up. "I'm not tired yet," the blues guitarist said, his voice as full of spirit as his fingers are on Blues on the Bayou. The album, which includes the cut "Blues Boy Tune" (RealAudio excerpt), won the Best Traditional Blues award.

King said following your own muse, rather than that of a producer or other outsider, is one way to keep going. "I had something in mind I wanted to do. I didn't want anyone changing my mind."

Bennett, a contemporary of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, has in recent years attracted a younger audience by recording albums such as MTV Unplugged (1994). Last year he took a more traditional turn with Bennett Sings Ellington — Hot & Cool, an album of material penned by late jazz legend Duke Ellington, including "Sophisticated Lady" (RealAudio excerpt). Bennett won the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance award.

"You wonder if you're doing the right thing," said the singer, who's been wooing female fans for almost a half-century. "But this is my ninth Grammy. I'm starting to feel very confident about myself."