We're under a couple feet of snow and ice here, and although the power's still on, that might not last. And anyway, I have to go shovel. So this may be briefer and less well thought out than it might otherwise. On my blog, Hans offered the following response:
Very interesting indeed - an important discovery! However, there is another possibility - namely that Bix himself read (and kept) the articles and that he, knowing that he was going to be interviewed and was expected to say something intelligent, freely borrowed from the statements mentioned in it. It is possible of course - but I rather doubt that a provincial interviewer from a local paper would have read the Niles interview, let alone the Osgood diatribe. And would this interviewer really have just quoted from other sources and blatantly publish them as Bix's words? Surely the paper would run the risk of being accused of plagiarism? And what would Bix have said afterwards about the article containing things he never said? Did Bix have so little to say that the interviewer thought it was necessary to borrow from other sources? I am sceptical about that. Furthermore - would it not be possible that the interview wasn't done in person at all but that Bix was asked to write something about himself and his opinions on jazz and send it to the newspaper? I think it is likely that Bix himself copied these statements to add some depth and seriousness to his "interview".
Hans highlights a couple of scenarios: 1) that Bix read the Niles interview and used it as a basis for his interview answers in an attempt to sound more intelligent; and 2) that Bix was actually the one who plagiarized the quotations, having been asked by the reporter for his thoughts.
I don't think either scenario is as likely as the one I've suggested, and the first scenario borders on the implausible, I think. The quotations in the two articles aren't similar in a way that would suggest that Bix remembered them and inserted key ideas and phrases into his interview. No, they're exactly the same. Word for word in most places with room for a few editorial excisions here and there. I'm just not convinced that anyone could offer up those exact words by memory and then a reporter would get those quotes all exactly right so that the Bix and NIles interviews matched up so perfectly. If it is possible, it sure isn't likely.
It's possible Bix is the one who plagiarized the quotes, but again it seems unlikely. The reporter was working on deadline, and asking an interview subject to write stuff down would hardly speed up the process. And even if Bix did write those quotations down and the reporter assumed they constituted Bix's words and thoughts, how then to explain that the structures of the two articles are also basically the same? Both more or less lead with the idea of musical humor; both put the extended biographical information in the same place; both even talk about Chopin, Grieg, and Liszt. It just seems far, far, far more likely that the reporter lifted the Niles interview, especially when you pair that conclusion with the additional evidence of his plagiarizing Osgood and, perhaps, even another Democrat article.
I'll admit to being a tad bit defensive about the suggestion that "a provincial interviewer from a local paper" would not have read a nationally syndicated article about the most popular music of the day. Contrary to what many may think, Davenport was hardly some backwater at this time. It was plenty large (relatively speaking) and plenty cosmopolitan. The Niles interview, meanwhile, was nationally syndicated. And it's possible that the Democrat subscribed to NEA at the time, and the reporter read the piece not in another paper but off the wire. In any event, a reporter above all would have been likely to have sought out or randomly come across this interview -- even a reporter in Davenport, Iowa. I also don't buy the idea that there was something obscure about the "Osgood diatribe." (I'm not sure how his writing fits that description, "diatribe." He was quite sympathetic to jazz and especially to Whiteman.) In 1926, the first two full-length books about jazz were published: Osgood's and Whiteman's. I don't think they were obscure titles, and anyway a reporter looking to brush up on the subject certainly could have found them.
I am less skeptical than Hans about the idea that Bix had so little to say that the reporter might have been provoked to make stuff up. I have interviewed many, many musicians as a journalist. Most musicians don't also deal with words for a living. And they're generally no good at all in using words to describe what it is they do. There are exceptions, of course, and on this forum, Brad Kay is one of the most significant. It doesn't mean that Bix was not articulate about his music, but there's no reason to believe he was. After all, there are few if any instances of him actually talking about his music, right? Which is why this interview carried so much weight.
Finally, Hans is skeptical that a case of plagiarism this outrageous would have been attempted let alone pulled off. Wouldn't the paper run the risk of being accused of thievery? Certainly it would have. I don't think it's likely the paper knew. But given the plagiarism scandals of our own era -- at the New York Times and the New Republic, for instance -- who's to say that this one isn't possible? Anyway, before I had even found the Niles interview, I asked the advice of a scholar who has some knowledge of the history of journalism. Would it have been unheard-of in 1929 for a reporter to just make a whole interview up? Not at all, she replied. That doesn't mean it was ethical or that the paper would have approved, but it would hardly have been unheard-of.
As to what Bix or his family thought -- isn't that always the question. Who knows?