The Joe Lewis Band is true blue Ozarks... with Mississippi roots.

They won the Lake Area International Blues Competition Sunday, Aug. 11 at the Dog Days Bar and Grill in Osage Beach, Mo. The Lake of the Ozarks Blues Society, (LOTOBS) hosted the competition, which was an International Blues Challenge sanctioned event. Winning by a unanimous vote, the band received prize money and they will go on to compete in the international finals in Memphis, Tenn. on Tuesday, Jan. 28 through Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. 

“It’s one of the biggest gigs of the year,” Band Singer/Guitarist Joe Lewis said. “We are stoked that we won!”

The Recycled Funk Band, Chuck Freeman (single), The Bonafide Cats and the Joe Lewis Band competed.

“Personally, I have been a big fan of Joe Lewis since the first time I heard them, about three years ago,” Lake of the Ozarks Blues Society President Mike Costello said. “His playing is phenomenal. He plays guitar like no one I have heard in years and that is what got the judges attention. His guitar playing is clearly influenced by rock/blues greats Jimmie Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.” Mike has had a passion for music for 40+ years and is the drummer for the Bonafide Cats.

Four judges chose the winner as Lake blues lovers cheered them on. The highest score they could get was 50. The Joe Lewis Band received three 50’s and a 49. The Joe Lewis band members are drummer Johnny Walker, bassists Tommy Cole and Joe Lewis. 

“I was shocked that we won!” Joe admitted.

"There were so many things against us." Their amp went out in the middle of the first song. "When our amp went out, I turned around to the back of the stage and said, 'God I need you now. I need you to help.'" A sound-guy with skills was able to quickly get the amp playing again. “And, our regular drummer couldn’t be there, so we played with a drummer we only practiced with once.”

“I don’t cry in front of people. I am not that guy, but I couldn’t stop my eyes from watering when they announced we won. I am so grateful. There were great bands there. We surrendered to Holy Spirit and let him have His way, and it was like riding a wave. God gets all the glory for this win.”

Cash and a Trip to Memphis

Joe Lewis lives in Columbia, Mo., but he is originally from South Picayune, Mississippi. He brings an authentic southern blues tone and feel, a rockin’ blues guitar alongside Christian-centric lyrics.

“This is really a big deal and a giant stepping-stone in a band’s career, should we win, or place highly, in Memphis,” Joe enthused.

The Joe Lewis Band was asked by several blues societies, even some outside of Missouri, to represent them in Memphis. (The competition rules stipulate that you have to live within 250 miles to represent a society.) “We picked the Lake because they have some of the best blues talent anywhere. There are some real blues jammin’-cutting heads. If those guys wanted to, they could step on stage and cut heads with anyone in the business. They are just that good. And the LOTOBS really gets behind their artists and supports them. And, they are hands down the most fun to be around,” Joe enthused.

The finals in Memphis will be a competition of the best of the best blues artist from around the nation and the world.

“We are excited that gospel blues is going to be represented in Memphis,” Joe added. “There is some phenomenal talent there. I would never be so pompous as to think that we are just going to go in and sweep Memphis, but it will be a great opportunity to network. If we win in Memphis, that will be a true miracle.”

“I have been trying to get to Memphis for years,” Mike said. “I want to see how they do their competitions and I want to support Joe and the band and see how far they will go. I think they are going to do well in Memphis.”

Lake of the Ozarks Blues Society – Keeping the Lake "Blue"


The mission of the Lake of the Ozarks Blue Society is to promote live blues and blues related music at the Lake of the Ozarks. They are a member of the National Blues Foundation and the Lake Arts Council. 

The society supports blues bands at the Lake, both acoustic and electric, giving them first preference in playing gigs. Some of the bands are a combination of blues and rock but most of them have their roots in blues. “Blues music really touches my soul in a way that no other music does. It is music about the things we go through in life, the things that we can all relate to.” 

Every month, a different vendor (bar) sponsors a LOTOBS band and they become the house band for the night. The evening usually begins at 6 p.m. with an open acoustic jam, the house band plays for an hour and then they hold an open jam. “I want to invite everyone to come out and hear one of our jams,” Mike said. “You will be amazed at the quality of the musicianship here at the Lake.”

To become a member or patron of the LOTOBS, to sponsor a band at your venue, or for event information visit


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