Posted by ESC on April 24, 2002
In Reply to: "Patch hell a mile" posted by paula on April 24, 2002
: Clarence grew up in a music-loving family; it seemed natural to him that he should sing: "The whole family was singing and my old man could sing some and of course I being the youngest of the family Ijust followed suit I guess." Clarence's father, William Henry Blois, knew "more songs than'd patch hell a mile," and was the major source of Clarence's own repertory.
: The above is a quote from an article using the expression. I found it using the yahoo search engine...
This is a guess. I think it's "patch" as in patch a road. Since hell is on fire, repairing a through road would take a lot of patching material since the material would tend to be consumed by flames. So "more songs than'd patch hell a mile" would mean "a lot." I thought I was on to something with the following expression, but maybe it's a whole different thing.
hell a mile - "An exclamation. 'Hell a mile, he ain't been out of hearing long enough to done that.' (William Faulkner, 'The Hamlet,' 1940)" From the Whistlin' Dixie section of the "Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms: Local Expressions from Coast to Coast" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 2000).