The Girl Behind “I Want a Hippopotimus for Christmas” [VIDEO]
I had never heard " I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" until a few years ago. Someone requested it and I was curious, so I found a copy and we played it on the air. Since that time, a lot of people have asked about the song and about the girl singing the song. So, here you have a brief history of Gayla Peevey and a video of her singing the song on "The Ed Sullivan Show"
Gayla Rienette Peevey was born March 8th, 1943 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in Capitol Hill Hospital to Lewin Austin and Edith Irene Peevey. The attending physician, Dr. Jackson. The family moved to Ponca City around 1948 and resided at 508 North Oak St. She began singing as a preschooler at the Second Baptist Church of Ponca City where she and her family were active members, and around the community for various events. When she got old enough to attend Lincoln Elementary school, she sang almost every day for her classmates and for assemblies. The second half of 4th grade her family moved back to Oklahoma City where Gayla began singing regularly on local TV on station WKY-TV. They moved to Hollywood the Summer of 1953 to appear as a regular on the Saturday Night Review hosted by Hoagy Carmichael. She signed a recording contract with Columbia Records around September of that year and recorded "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" and "Are My Ears on Straight" in New York produced by Mitch Miller. It was released Christmas of 1953. Gayla sang it in October on the Ed Sullivan Show prior to it's release. Taking advantage of the song's popularity, the Oklahoma City Zoo did a promotion with the News Paper to raise money mostly from donations sent in by children to buy "Gayla" a hippo. The campaign was a success and Matilda was delivered on Christmas Eve morning. Gayla accepted the baby hippo and then donated her to the zoo. Matilda lived in the Oklahoma City Zoo for over forty years and gave birth to many babies who were placed in other zoos around the country.
Here is Gayla (age 10 or 11) singing her famous song, "live" on the Ed Sullivan Show
Gayla has her own website and you can read more about her HERE