I have to confess. For years, I assumed “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” was sung by an adult pretending to be a little kid. I wasn’t listening to the radio in 1953, so when I first heard Gayla Peevey’s strong voice and comic timing years later, I assumed she was a studio singer banging out a novelty hit between commercials for Ipana toothpaste and Chesterfield cigarettes.
Turns out, Gayla Peevey was a real ten-year-old radio singer from Oklahoma City. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” was her first single for Capitol Records, a song found for her by Mitch Miller. This clip is from “The Ed Sullivan Show.”