Gayla Peevey never ever dreamed that her once-famous song, “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” would suffer a boost in popularity sixty years after that recording. Currently a new generation, the grandchildren of the original audience, has actually rediscovered the song, and also Gayla is surprised to discover herself in the role of celebrity when again.

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“I can’t believe the song has actually been resurrected and is getting much more popular every year,” claimed Gayla (Peevey) Henderson. “I to be off living an simple life for years and also didn’t listen anything around it until around five years ago. Then ns started acquiring media calls from Australia, Ireland and also all over the world.”

As a child, Gayla was regularly mistaken because that Shirley Temple because of her blonde curls, yet it was her distinct sound that made her famous. Gayla was a 10-year-old girl life in Oklahoma City when Columbia documents noticed she voice and also stage presence on a regional television show. They offered her a recording contract in 1953, and also her first album landed she a spot on the Ed Sullivan Show. The hippo tune shot come the top of the Christmas charts, offering over fifty percent a million copies.

At the time, only one various other Christmas song, “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause,” had actually done for this reason well. It to be sung through Jimmy Boyd, one more one that Columbia’s handpicked kid singers. Gayla and Jimmy performed several songs together and continued your friendship right into adulthood.

Unlike Jimmy, Gayla was a one-hit-wonder. Gayla qualities that partially to the fact that the next few songs she tape-recorded “weren’t very great songs” and also that she parents lacked the marketing training to additional her career. Once fans began stalking the house, she parents made decision to uproot the family and move to California come live a “normal” life. Gayla elevated a family members with Cliff, she husband the fifty years, to visit church socials and rarely provided her previous celebrity life a thought.

Now, brand-new and nostalgic fans space coming back into Gayla’s life. This time, she feels more prepared to challenge the flurry that publicity that occurs each winter. Together a career, she had a an innovative knack for creating commercial jingles and eventually ran her very own advertising firm for 15 years. She also developed a well-known website to paper her childhood story.

In December 1953, the Oklahoma City Zoo approached the Peevey household with the idea of giving Gayla’s musical wish—a hippo for Christmas. Zoo manager Julian Frazier feeling confident the Oklahoma kids would donate their pennies to purchase young Mathilda, a hippo native the Bronx Zoo. By Christmas Eve, Oklahomans had actually raised the forced $3500, so Gayla to be at the airport to greet her new present and also officially donate Mathilda come the zoo.

“Mathilda was just a baby, therefore she wasn’t that big,” Gayla remembered. “As a kid, ns didn’t understand the enormity the it all or the major promotions that were walk on. Cameras adhered to me everywhere, and also I was obtaining bags of fan mail—but because that me, that was just fun.”

Now it’s fun again! 3 years ago, the Oklahoma City Zoo held Gayla together their guest of respect to memory her significant role in heralding the zoo’s very first hippo. Gayla feared the no one would display up, for this reason she was surprised to it is in treated prefer a celebrity through a crowd of adoring fans. She led a hippo sing-along, which was so popular that the is now an yearly event at the zoo. “It’s surreal come step back into the performing role, because I’ve to be a normal human all these years,” Gayla said.

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Although she insurance claims normality, couple of people deserve to boast the a hit song, or the substantial hippo repertoire that has started to spill out of her house and onto the lawn. Not everyone has actually a stream through a rock hippo in the backyard. Despite she didn’t begin the collection, family, friends and fans keep giving her items, so she doesn’t mind finding places to placed them.

“It’s rejuvenating to recognize that civilization still love the song and remember that ns was component of Oklahoma’s history. It’s to be a wild ride,” Gayla said. “Looking back, I can honestly say the if you’re walking to have a hit song, make it a Christmas song since it comes ago every year!”

This year, sign up with the hippo sing-along at the OKC Zoo wherein Gayla will be authorized the group via chat application at noon top top Saturday, December 7th!