Gayla Peevey, singer of that enduring Christmas classic, "I desire a Hippopotamus for Christmas," stands next to an image she drew of a hippopotamus in her home Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in La Mesa, Calif. (Gregory Bull / AP)

LOS ANGELES — every a cute, curly haired 10-year-old girl called Gayla Peevey wanted for Christmas in 1953 was a hippopotamus.

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and also amazingly enough, after "I desire a Hippopotamus because that Christmas" came to be the best hit tune of the holiday season, she actually acquired one, a 700-pound baby named Matilda. She promptly donated it to the Oklahoma City Zoo, where it live to be practically 50, a ripe old period for hippos.


"That one simply really take it off, and also it"s tho going strong, stronger than ever. Sixty-three year later! tough to believe," Peevey, an ebullient woman of 73, says throughout a current phone interview native her mountain Diego-area home.


So much so the it"s provided as a cellphone ringtone these days, contained on holiday ornaments and Christmas cards, obtainable for download on iTunes. It"s even featured in a U.S. Postal service commercial in i m sorry the write-up office boasts that ships an ext online gifts, hippopotamuses included, 보다 anybody.


Some people will tell you it"s an annoying ear worm, a song with together silly lyrics and a melody so maddeningly memorable that it will certainly play unending in her head every vacation season until brand-new Year"s Day.


however that"s part of the charm, says Tim Moore, iHeart Radio"s brand-new Hampshire programming director that over the years has play it plenty of times.


"It"s got the sound of one old-time recording," Moore says. "It sounds dated. It sound a small corny. But that"s the thing about it. Also, not to it is in discounted is its impact on children."


because that years, Peevey has been hearing from schoolteachers roughly the people who tell her your students carry out the song and can"t get sufficient of it.


"Over 15 years now we"ve excellent it, and also I don"t think we"re stopping," laughs Dana Caro, that directs the second-grade Christmas music routine at a suburban southerly California school.


various other songs come and go, states Caro, yet "Hippo" stays in the mix each year at Arcadia"s Longley way Elementary School.


"Even in course today, we weren"t in rehearsal yet as soon as one child started to sing it, and also then they to be all singing it," included the teacher, who says it has actually a bounce and a cheeriness that youngsters love.


and also who knows, to sing it may actually get a child a hippo. Unlikely, perhaps, but it did acquire one because that Peevey.


she hometown zoo, hippoless in ~ the time, teamed v the neighborhood newspaper come encourage human being to send in sufficient money to buy she one after she debuted the song on television"s "The Ed Sullivan Show."


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three thousand dollars later, Matilda came down on Christmas Eve, a installation gift because that someone that would for this reason enthusiastically declare, "No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses. I only like hippopotamuses. And also hippopotamuses favor me too."


She had been singing professionally for two years prior to recording "Hippo," moving up from local watermelon festivals come radio shows and then a point out on television"s "Saturday Night Revue" hosted by Hoagy Carmichael.


but her hippo fame captured her off guard, and also for months climate she couldn"t move about Oklahoma City without being mobbed through fans. Her parents figured she"d mix in as just one more "normal kid" in California while recording a few more songs.


none would have the influence of that very first one, created by john Rox and personally selected because that Peevey by Columbia Records" legend producer and also A&R guy Mitch Miller, that backed her through his orchestra.


She did resurface briefly in 1959 with "My little Marine," an aching teen ballad she"d written about her first crush. She tape-recorded it under the name Jamie Horton, her manager not wanting world to dismiss the as another hippo song. That peaked in ~ No. 84 on Billboard"s warm 100.

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shortly after, she was off to college, then marriage and also motherhood. At some point she founded her own proclaiming agency, maintaining her hand in music composing commercial jingles.


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