Gayla Peevey was 10-years-old when she recorded the track “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” in 1953. The child star, often perplexed with Shirley Temple, got adoring pan quickly, specifically in her hometown of Oklahoma City. Gayla remembers the awkwardness when schoolmates stared at her during class or when youngsters climbed into trees to stare at her through the bedroom window. 

 Gayla had actually a clear gift because that singing, so she parents enabled her to carry out on a regional television range program. As soon as Columbia records noticed her strong voice and also stage presence, they offered her a recording contract to sing children’s songs. 

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 The an initial selection, a cutesy song about a hippo, happy Gayla as much as it did audiences. During rehearsal, Gayla do some improvements to the lyrics, which originally read “I want a hippopotamus because that Christmas. A hippopotamus is all ns want.” She also ad-libbed one extra “es” ~ above “hippopotamuses-es.” 

 That Christmas, the song marketed a record half million copies; Gayla even performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Oklahoma City Zoo chose to capitalize upon the success that their neighborhood celebrity by beginning a campaign to to buy a hippo for Gayla because that Christmas. The catch? She had to donate it to the zoo! 

 Mathilda, a two-year-old hippopotamus, arrived by plane on Christmas Eve. Gayla to be at the airport to greet her and also turn she gift end to the zoo. Top top Christmas day, over 10,000 visitors involved see the zoo’s first hippo. 

 Almost fifty year later, the song continues to be a vacation favorite. Together Gayla says, “If you’re going to have a struggle song, make it a Christmas song, since it comes back every year!” it has especially experienced a revival in popularity among children, who space the grandchildren that the initial audience. Even Gayla’s grandchildren enjoy the song; return they uncover it hard to believe their grandmother videotaped the song. 

 Gayla could be called a one-hit-wonder, due to the fact that her musical career never ever reached such heights again. She attributes this partly to the reality that the next couple of songs she recorded “weren’t very great songs.” The lineup contained one about a knock-kneed monkey and also another through the stunner theme, “I wish i were a whisker top top the Easter Bunny’s chin.”

 In addition, her parents didn’t have the promotion training essential to more the job of their youngest daughter. Faced with the suspicion of display business and also the difficulty of an invasive pan base, escape seemed the best solution. Gayla was uprooted from Oklahoma City and moved to California come live a “normal” life.

 She did have actually a short stint together a teenage recording artist, under the name Jamie Horton. She netted a few successful songs; but the entrance of the brand-new Beatles-style music caused Gayla to exit the singing sector for good. However, she written several published songs and also eventually wrote commercial jingles because that a living. 

 Gayla and her husband, Cliff Henderson, did have actually that “normal” life the working, going come church, and also raising children.

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These days, she says she is finest known in California for her duty of to sing “Silent Night” native the tip-top the a human, singing Christmas tree.

 In November 2011, the Oklahoma City Zoo welcomed Gayla as a guest celebrity to share her story and also sign autographs. During her visit, she participated in a Gayla Gala and various media events, celebrating her hippo song that is now component ofOklahoma’s history. 

 Thank you, Gayla, because that bringing united state such a exciting Christmas tale!

Gayla’s website is 

" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="size-large wp-image-649" title="Hippo for Christmas" src="" alt="" srcset=" 500w, 1000w, 123w, 246w, 768w, 840w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" />Hippo post in ZooSounds, autumn 2011