Gayla Peevey, singer of that enduring Christmas classic, "I want a Hippopotamus because that Christmas," stands following to picture she drew of a hippopotamus in her residence Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in La Mesa, Calif. (Gregory Bull / AP)

LOS ANGELES — all a cute, curly haired 10-year-old girl named Gayla Peevey want for Christmas in 1953 to be a hippopotamus.

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and amazingly enough, after "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" came to be the greatest hit track of the holiday season, she actually acquired one, a 700-pound baby named Matilda. She promptly donated it to the Oklahoma City Zoo, wherein it live to be practically 50, a ripe old age for hippos.

"That one just really take it off, and it"s tho going strong, stronger than ever. Sixty-three years later! tough to believe," Peevey, an ebullient woman of 73, says during a recent phone interview native her san Diego-area home.

So much so that it"s used as a cellphone ringtone this days, included on holiday ornaments and also Christmas cards, accessible for download on iTunes. It"s even featured in a U.S. Postal service commercial in i beg your pardon the post office boasts the ships an ext online gifts, hippopotamuses included, than anybody.

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Some people will tell girlfriend it"s an annoying ear worm, a song with together silly lyrics and a melody for this reason maddeningly memorable the it will play endlessly in her head every holiday season until new Year"s Day.

but that"s component of that is charm, states Tim Moore, iHeart Radio"s new Hampshire programming director who over the decades has played it lot of of times.

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

because that years, Peevey has been hearing native schoolteachers roughly the civilization who phone call her your students execute the song and can"t get sufficient of it.

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

other songs come and also go, says Caro, however "Hippo" stays in the mix every year at Arcadia"s Longley method Elementary School.

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

and who knows, singing it might actually gain a boy a hippo. Unlikely, perhaps, yet it did acquire one for Peevey.

her hometown zoo, hippoless in ~ the time, teamed through the regional newspaper come encourage people to send in sufficient money to buy her one after ~ she debuted the song on television"s "The Ed Sullivan Show."

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3 thousand dollars later, Matilda landed on Christmas Eve, a fitting gift because that someone who would so enthusiastically declare, "No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses. I only like hippopotamuses. And also hippopotamuses choose me too."

She had actually been to sing professionally for 2 years prior to recording "Hippo," moving up from neighborhood watermelon festivals to radio shows and also then a clues on television"s "Saturday Night Revue" held by Hoagy Carmichael.

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

none would have actually the influence of that first one, written by john Rox and also personally selected for Peevey by Columbia Records" legendary producer and A&R man Mitch Miller, that backed her v his orchestra.

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She walk resurface summary in 1959 with "My small Marine," an aching teen ballad she"d written around her first crush. She recorded it under the name Jamie Horton, her manager no wanting world to dismiss the as one more hippo song. The peaked in ~ No. 84 top top Billboard"s warm 100.

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soon after, she was off to college, climate marriage and motherhood. At some point she established her own declaring agency, keeping her hand in music creating commercial jingles.



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