Friday, 13 December 2013

Day 13 - "I Want A Hippopatamus for Christmas" - Lenny the Lion and Terry Hall

Yes, it’s that time again: Christmas party night and the sad inevitability that is the Blagg Calendar novelty record.
This year it’s a BOGOF – although you won’t thank me for it – as Lenny the Lion sings ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas’ hopefully ably abetted (‘cos otherwise I’d be very worried!) by Terry Hall ( NOT the one from The Specials, you doughnut ) on whose arm Lenny used to sit.

During the late ‘50’s and into the ‘60’s, ventriloquist Hall and his lion used to appear regularly on Children’s TV, at one point having their own TV show ‘Pops and Lenny’  on which The Beatles made an early appearance.
It’s quite hard to find a recording of ‘Hippopotamus’ anywhere – unsurprisingly other than some plays on Children’s radio it pretty much sank without trace - but a fellow blogger has it on his site at Lord of the Boot Sale and I’m sure he’d be grateful for the traffic. It’s a popular one for the kids and has been a Blagg Jnr. favourite since he was a small boy and, in fact, we played it in the car just last weekend. Blagg Jnr. is now 72.

2016 Update: The song disappeared from YouTube so - a first here! - I loaded it myself. Thank me later.

There is a link between the Hall / Lenny song and the accompanying ‘bonus’ video though, because during a trip to the U.S. in 1958, Hall made an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, as earlier did original singer of the song, child star Gayla Peevy. In fact, the video comes from Peevey’s appearance on the Sullivan show in 1953 where she sang the song as a 10-year-old. It went on to become a U.S. hit and it can be found on - Yes! - Gayla Peevey's own web site dedicated to the song. It just gets better and better, doesn't it?

Listen to Sullivan’s intro, watch the lead in and then marvel when Peevey begins to sing. Does that voice really come from that body? Scary!
There is a fascinating footnote to this whole story too. Oklahoma Zoo capitalised upon the popularity of "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas" with a fundraising campaign to "buy a hippo for Gayla", the fund raised $3,000, and a baby hippopotamus named Matilda was purchased and given to Peevey who then donated it back to the zoo. The then 2 year old hippopotamus named Matilda spent 45 years in the Zoo, passing away at age 47 from a heart attack in 1998 while being transferred to the Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Sadly, Terry Hall passed away in 2007, while Gayla became a teacher and then run her own advertising firm. Now aged 70 she has retired from public life. The whereabouts of Lenny the Lion is unknown, although rumours that he had to enter a drug rehabilitation clinic recently can probably be discounted. 

Now off you go to the 'I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas' web site. The Blagg Advent Calendar: the gift that just keeps on giving.

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