Gayla Peevey was 10-years-old as soon as she tape-recorded the song “I desire a Hippopotamus because that Christmas” in 1953. The boy star, often confused with Shirley Temple, gained adoring fans quickly, particularly in she hometown of Oklahoma City. Gayla remembers the awkwardness when schoolmates stared at her during class or when children climbed into trees to stare at her v the bedroom window. 

 Gayla had actually a clean gift because that singing, so she parents permitted her to do on a regional television variety program. As soon as Columbia records noticed her solid voice and stage presence, they available her a record contract to song children’s songs. 

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 The first selection, a cutesy song about a hippo, delighted Gayla as lot as that did audiences. During rehearsal, Gayla made some enhancements to the lyrics, which originally read “I want a hippopotamus because that Christmas. A hippopotamus is all i want.” She also ad-libbed an extra “es” onto “hippopotamuses-es.” 

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

 Mathilda, a two-year-old hippopotamus, arrived by airplane on Christmas Eve. Gayla to be at the airport come greet her and turn she gift over to the zoo. ~ above Christmas day, over 10,000 visitors came to see the zoo’s an initial hippo. 

 Almost fifty years later, the song remains a vacation favorite. As Gayla says, “If you’re walk to have actually a struggle song, do it a Christmas song, since it comes ago every year!” the has specifically experienced a rebirth in popularity among children, who are the grandchildren the the initial audience. Even Gayla’s grandchildren gain the song; return they discover it difficult to believe their grandmother taped the song. 

 Gayla could be called a one-hit-wonder, since her music career never reached together heights again. She attributes this partly to the reality that the next few songs she recorded “weren’t very great songs.” The lineup included one about a knock-kneed monkey and another through the silly theme, “I wish ns were a whisker ~ above the Easter Bunny’s chin.”

 In addition, she parents didn’t have the promotional training required to further the career of your youngest daughter. Faced with the uncertainty of present business and also the trouble of one invasive fan base, escape seemed the best solution. Gayla was uprooted from Oklahoma City and moved to California come live a “normal” life.

 She did have a short stint as a teenage record artist, under the surname Jamie Horton. She netted a few successful songs; however the entrance of the brand-new Beatles-style music resulted in Gayla to leave the singing sector for good. However, she created several released songs and also eventually composed commercial jingles for a living. 

 Gayla and she husband, Cliff Henderson, did have actually that “normal” life of working, going to church, and also raising children.

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This days, she states she is finest known in California because that her role of to sing “Silent Night” native the tip-top that a human, to sing 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 also various media events, celebrating she hippo song that is now component ofOklahoma’s history. 

 Thank you, Gayla, for bringing us 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 write-up in ZooSounds, autumn 2011