In 1873, impoverished Confederate veteran Chiswell Langhorne moved his family from Lynchburg to Danville, Virginia and began looking for work. The owner of a Danville tobacco warehouse had recently developed a new system of selling tobacco by auction: Instead of having farmers’ tobacco hogsheads sampled for interested buyers, the warehouse owner had all the tobacco laid out in long rows for auction. Langhorne, a lively character with a taste for showing off, got the idea that he would make his mark somehow in the newly flourishing Danville tobacco trade.
He was an Episcopalian, but while visiting a Catholic friend in Richmond around this time, he attended Mass with him one Sunday morning and heard the priest’s Gregorian chant. Langhorne “reasoned that maybe he could supply the entertainment needs of warehousemen back home by emulating the priest’s stimulating chant, along with what he later coined, a ‘pitter-patter’ and ‘gobble gook’ that would stimulate the buyers and be pleasing to the gathering public.”