Here's a fun story to talk about around the fire this Christmas. Gayla Peevey is the singer of one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. She is from Oklahoma City, but the enduring song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" was written by none other than Iowa native John Rox.
According to the Des Moines Register, Rox was born in Des Moines and went to Winterset High School, where he graduated in 1920 and went on to marry Alice Pearce, the actress who played Gladys Kravitz on "Bewitched". Rox later died of a heart attack at the age of 57. But not before the young Gayla Peevey took his most celebrated song to #24 on the Billboard charts and everyone's radio (and mobile app) every December since.
Peevey, who is now 78, recorded the song in 1953. After the song initially hit big, the locals in Oklahoma City raised $3,000 to get Gayla that hippopotamus she so wanted for Christmas, because only a hippopotamus would do. She named it Matilda, then gifted it to the city zoo where it lived for nearly 50 years.
She went back to that zoo in 2017 to "dedicate" a new hippo to their ranks and led a sing-along of the famed festive hit, written by one of our own from the Hawkeye State.
Kacey Musgraves, Gretchen Wilson, and Lake Street Dive have all done remakes of the song that we now love, even more, knowing all about its Iowa roots.