Gayla Rienette Peevey was born March 8th, 1943 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in Capitol Hill Hospital to Lewin Austin and Edith Irene Peevey. The attending physician, Dr. Jackson. The family moved to Ponca City around 1948 and resided at 508 North Oak St. She began singing as a preschooler at the Second Baptist Church of Ponca City where she and her family were active members, and around the community for various events. When she got old enough to attend Lincoln Elementary school, she sang almost every day for her classmates and for assemblies. The second half of 4th grade her family moved back to Oklahoma City where Gayla began singing regularly on local TV on station WKY-TV. They moved to Hollywood the Summer of 1953 to appear as a regular on the Saturday Night Review hosted by Hoagy Carmichael. She signed a recording contract with Columbia Records around September of that year and recorded "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" and "Are My Ears on Straight" in New York produced by Mitch Miller. It was released Christmas of 1953. Gayla sang it in October on the Ed Sullivan Show prior to its release. Taking advantage of the song's popularity, the Oklahoma City Zoo did a promotion with the News Paper to raise money mostly from donations sent in by children to buy "Gayla" a hippo. The campaign was a success and Matilda was delivered on Christmas Eve morning. Gayla accepted the baby hippo and then donated her to the zoo. Matilda lived in the Oklahoma City Zoo for over forty years and gave birth to many babies who were placed in other zoos around the country.
Gayla recorded a number of other children's songs, but none caught on like the Hippo song which is still popular today around the world. In fact, it seems to have grown in popularity and airplay in the last fifteen or so years.
After elementary school, Gayla's family chose to take her out of show business and move to San Diego so she could live a normal life and attend public school which she couldn't do in Oklahoma. However, in 1959 as a sixteen-year-old Gayla learned a few chords on her new guitar and started writing songs. It provided a venue for creative expression which she needed. She sent a demo of a song she wrote about a cute Marine, the object of her first teen crush, who was shipped out to Okinawa shortly after they met. Joy Records signed her up and recorded "My Little Marine". It made the billboard charts and she appeared on the Dick Clark American Band Stand show several times as well as other "sock hop" shows so popular at the time. Dick Clark also had a national night time show for a while and Gayla, who's name was changed by Joy Records to Jamie Horton ( Gayla was not in favor of that, by the way) made a couple of guest appearances. There were several other releases, but none did as well as My Little Marine, at least in the USA. When the fifty's style rock went out with the entrance of the Beatles, Gayla quit show business again, this time for good, and went on to finish school. She met Cliff right after high school and married him in August of 1963. She went to college while married and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a teaching credential. Teaching turned out not to be her passion, so she started writing jingles for commercials and ended up with her own Advertising Agency which she ran for 15 years. She and Cliff had one child, a girl named Jennie Annette who is married to Jon. They have three beautiful children and live in the Los Angeles area. Jennie now goes by her professional name, Sydney. She and her family are Christians and love serving the Lord in their church and community. Nothing could please Cliff and Gayla more.
Gayla has been happily married for 48 years and has been involved in church all of her adult life along with Cliff. She still enjoys writing songs and singing with the praise team at the Baptist church where she and Cliff are active members. They're both in good health and very much enoy their life and sweet family.