As if being a huge Christmas music geek wasn't embarrassing enough, the past few years have brought the onset of this disturbing phenomenon where I obsess over a particular Christmas song sung by a child. That's pretty low. Last year it was Brenda Lee's "I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus," and before that it was "Santa Claus Is A Black Man." If this time next year I'm raving about "All I Want to Ask Santa Claus" by Ricky Segall & The Segalls, send out the men with butterfly nets. But for now, I'm stuck on "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."
The original version of "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" was recorded by Gayla Peevey, a 10 year-old local TV celebrity from Oklahoma, back in 1953. The song got to #24 on the charts. And guess what else? Gayla got a hippopotamus for Christmas! Wisely, she turned "Matilda" over to the Oklahoma City Zoo, who'd spearheaded the campaign to get her the damn animal in the first place.
You'd think most children would've quit there—after all, she got the hippo and a hit record, too—but not Gayla. In subsequent years, she churned out "Angel in the Christmas Play" (1954) and "77 Santas" (1955), but neither achieved the success of her signature song.
I stumbled across this earworm via a new cover by contemporary artist Anya Marina (available as a free download here). I don't know much about Marina, but I suspect music supervisor supreme Alexandra Patsavas had a hand in this one; Marina is signed to Patsavas' Chop Shop imprint, and heaven knows Patsavas has consistently demonstrated the kind of mouth-breathing music geek knowledge that fan boys like me drool over.