I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

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"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"
Single by Gayla Peevey
B-side "Are My Ears on Straight?"
Released 1953 (U.S.)
Genre Christmas, Novelty
Label Columbia (no. 4-40106)
Writer(s) John Rox

"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" is a Christmas novelty song written by John Rox (1902–1957)[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] and performed by Gayla Peevey (10 years old at the time) in 1953. The song peaked at number 24 on Billboard magazine's pop chart in December 1953.[8]

History[edit]

Peevey was a child star from Ponca City, Oklahoma. When released nationally by Columbia Records, the song shot to the top of the charts and the city zoo acquired a baby hippo named Matilda.

Peevey was filmed performing the song on The Ed Sullivan Show in October 1953. A video of this performance is available on her website.[9]

A popular legend holds that this 1953 hit had been recorded as a fund-raiser to bring the city zoo a hippo; but in a 2007 radio interview with Detroit-based WNIC radio station, Peevey clarified that the song was not originally recorded as a fundraiser. Instead, a local promoter picked up on the popularity of the song and Peevey's local roots, and launched a campaign to present her with an actual hippopotamus on Christmas.

The campaign succeeded, and she was presented with an actual hippopotamus, which she donated to the city zoo. The hippopotamus lived for nearly 50 years.[10]

Gayla Peevey later recorded as Jamie Horton, scoring the Billboard Hot 100 charter "My Little Marine" in 1960.

B-side[edit]

The B-side of the original 78 featured the song "Are my Ears on Straight?"[11]

Other releases[edit]

It is a Dr. Demento Christmas staple, and is currently available on Dr. Demento's The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time Vol. 6: Christmas.

Bob Keeshan, as Captain Kangaroo, recorded a version of the song in the 1960s.

Captain & Tennille included a version on their 2007 album The Secret of Christmas, and it was released as a single the same year.

The Three Stooges also sang a version.[12]

Country music singer Gretchen Wilson recorded a rendition in late 2009. It debuted at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts dated for January 2, 2010. It is included on her album Christmas in My Heart, released in 2013.

A version was also recorded by the British entertainer Terry Hall and his puppet Lenny The Lion.

The American pop band Jonas Brothers covered the song live in 2007 at the Radio Disney Jingle Jam in Katy, Texas.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 2005 and again in 2011, the Canadian telecommunications company Telus used the song in a Christmas advertising campaign.[13]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Local Song Writer Dies", The Winterset Madisonian (Winterset, Iowa), August 14, 1957.
  2. ^ "Alice Pearce's Nuptials", The New York Times, May 23, 1948, p. 65.
  3. ^ "John R. Rox" [sic], The New York Times, August 6, 1957, p. 26.
  4. ^ "John J. Rox, Song Writer", The Washington Post, August 8, 1957, p. B-2.
  5. ^ "John Jefferson Rox" in Notable Names in the American Theatre. James T. White & Co., 1976. ISBN 0-88371-018-8.
  6. ^ Renewal registration RE0000084409, February 23, 1981, of "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas", by John Jefferson Rox, U.S. Copyright Office database on-line.
  7. ^ John J. Rox in: National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938–1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 53. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  9. ^ "The Ed Sullivan Show". The official site by Gayla Peevey. Retrieved December 8, 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Breakfast Club" morning show. WNIC, Detroit, MI. December 19, 2007.
  11. ^ "Christmas Music Coundown: Day 9.5", The Portland Mercury. December 15, 2010. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  12. ^ "The Three Stooges – Records". Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Novelty Christmas song, zoo linked for 50 years", The Norman Transcript. January 31, 2007. Retrieved November 1, 2012.