EXTRA: Pat Boone. Merv Griffin. ‘Nuff Said.

What the world needs now is … a new Merv Griffin record! And that’s exactly what the world’s going to get, thanks to Pat Boone‘s unwavering dedication to preserving the art of crooning — that mild, earnest, from-the-heart style of singing love songs.

To that end, Boone held a press conference here today, where he signed Merv to a recording contract and introduced to the world the next Frank Sinatra and/or Harry Connick Jr.

The event took place — where else? — at Merv‘s own Beverly Hilton Hotel, and it was emceed by yet another golden-age fossil, “Laugh-In” announcer Gary Owens.

“I have challenged myself all my life. And what I hadn’t done in a long time was make an album,” multi-millionaire real-estate mogul (and erstwhile talk-show host) Merv, 75 years young, told Hollywood.com. “And then I had a party, and Barbra Streisand said to me, ‘Why aren’t you singing?’ So I went and did an album, and it came out n-i-i-i-i-ice.”

Merv Griffin And while Merv gets ready for the release of his just-completed, yet-untitled CD (his first record in three decades), a young kid from Chesaning, Mich. (pop. 2,700) will enter a recording studio and cut his very first record.

Ryan Robert Dehues won a nationwide crooner talent search held by Boone’s Gold Label record company. At 16 years old, Dehues certainly brings down the median age of Boone’s other recording artists (Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls, Jack Jones, Sha Na Na, etc.), most of whom are on the other side of 50.

“Ladies in particular like crooners and crooning, going back to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra,” Boone said today. “You look around these days, and you can’t find anybody on the horizon that may fill those big shoes, so we wanted to do something about that.”

Boone, now 65, had more than 50 hits on the charts between 1956 and 1963. Your parents might remember them: “Love Letters in the Sand,” “April Love,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” and so on. In the 1970’s he switched to recording gospel stuff, and then in 1997 he recorded the not-very-funny “In A Metal Mood” CD, wearing a studs-and-leather jacket.

Dehues was born long after turntables and LPs, much less swing music and big bands, and he’s much too wet behind the ears to have had his heart ripped out by an Ava Gardner. But he looks the part — clean cut, skinny as Sinatra‘s microphone stand — and he’s watched enough Sinatra concert videos to cop a few phrasing tricks and moves.

He also knows the right answer when you ask him a question.

“When I was 12, I came upon a Sinatra CD and played it, fell in love with it,” the kid says. “That took me to liking Mel Torme, Bobby Darin, Jack Jones. I’ve loved this music ever since.”