"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"
(written by John Rox)
Original recording by Gayla Peevey
In 1953 at the age of ten I signed a 5 year contract with Columbia Records . The first two songs the label picked out for me to record were "I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS" and "ARE MY EARS ON STRAIGHT" . My mother and I were flown to New York City where the songs were recorded . Mitch Miller was the producer of the record and I believe Percy Faith conducted the orchestra. In those days you sang live with the orchestra in the recording studio.
I had just finished as a regular cast member on the weekly Summer replacement for the SHOW OF SHOWS at NBC in Hollywood hosted by Hoagy Carmichael . It was called SATURDAY NIGHT REVUE. On that show I got to sing with some of the top bands in the business from Count Basie to David Rose and every week there were guest stars like Dean Martin, Groucho Marx , Jimmy Durante, George Goble and many others.
I made a guest appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to kick off the release of I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS . Mr. Sullivan and I had already done a big show together in Oklahoma City , so my appearance on the TOAST OF THE TOWN was not our first encounter. He made reference to that when he introduced me on his she-e-o-o-w.
The HIPPO song went on to be a good sized hit that Christmas. It even sparked a fund raising campaign spearheaded by the Oklahoma City Zoo and the local newspaper that raised enough money through mailed in nickels and dimes to buy me a real hippopotamus. On the morning of Christmas Eve , 1953, live baby hippo, Matilda, arrived at the Will Roger's Airport and was presented to me. What a fun and memorable event that was !! Of course, I donated her to the Zoo where she happily resided for over forty years and with mate, Norm, produced (I believe) 9 off spring.
Surprisingly the song has gained in popularity and airplay over the last few years and every Christmas I enjoy phone calls and interviews from radio stations all around the globe. A lot of merchandise has hit the shelves too with my voice streaming out of everything from bouncing balls to Hallmark cards and keepsake Christmas ornaments. It's fun for me and nice to have a legacy that puts a smile on people's faces and a little warm Christmas cheer in their hearts.
Hugs, to you all, Gayla