It’s Standing Room Only a/k/a SRO Band At Sugar’s Downtown

Friday, January 10, 2014 - by Mark Herndon

The Chattanooga Music scene is doing pretty well as of late….considered somewhat the off season from the summer jams such as Riverbend and Nightfall.  Some of the local venues such as Track 29, Tremont Tavern, Rhythm & Brews, The Honest Pint, Barking Legs, Buds Sport Bar, Sugar’s Ribs and others continue to host the local artists and bands year-round.    

I try to get around town and catch some of the local artists and bands entertaining at the various venues. Often I will hang out with my friends including Bob Payne who I had the opportunity to work with during Riverbend last year. Everyone in the business knows that Bob steadies the local music ship in many aspects as he talent scouts for Riverbend and covers much of the action on  I run into Bob often as we catch up with the bands. 

I caught up with Standing Room Only, a/k/a SRO last month at Sugar’s Ribs.  I kept missing them with conflicts arising from my schedule when they appear often at the Foundry nested in the Chattanoogan hotel.  The band members, who are all considered my friends, are Karen Phillips, vocals; Landis Batts, vocals; John Cady, lead guitar; Jim Rhodes, vocal and bass guitar, and Johnny Smith, drums.

This bluesy jazzy band with a lot of soulful sounds is out of the box with its abilities to reach a wide spectrum of peoples' musical interests.  Then when you least expect it, SRO will add some Motown, Disco and Country, pleasing a wider taste of patrons enjoying their dinner. This combination of music can fill a dance floor quickly. The strong and passionate vocals to the crafty tuned talents of the musicians make for a great night as the popular ribs house serves up drinks and excellent food. 

SRO Band, who were onstage at Sugar’s Downtown on a recent December Saturday night, were one of the first bands to appear at the Sugar’s downtown nightspot.  Formed in 2007, the group attributes its longevity to not only the talent onstage but to the tight relationships between band members.   The friendship between SRO founder Karen Phillips (along with past member Mark Edwards) and lead vocalist Landis Batts began during their days as singing waiters at the Station House at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. As a result Ms. Phillips knew she wanted Batts to front this project.   “Landis is one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard; I loved singing with him at the Station House and I knew I wanted to continue that relationship in this band.  I had to beg him a little but it’s all worked out,” she laughed. 

SRO Band is a versatile group that prides itself on filling up the dance floor by featuring a diverse playlist of Motown, disco, country and classics.  The band is full of past and current Best of the Chattanooga musicians, including Batts (3 time male vocalist of the year), Jim Rhodes on bass and vocals (2 time bass player of the year), and Johnny Smith on drums (3 time drummer of the year).  The group was also named Chattanooga party band of the year in 2013. In addition to playing local venues, the group has also performed at many weddings and private parties not only in Chattanooga but in the Tri State area. 

As you check out Chattanooga’s music menu of all the local venues, don’t miss SRO when you have a chance to catch up with them.  If you want more information and schedule of dates to drop in and make room on the dance floor or sit and enjoy the sounds, you are welcome to contact Karen Phillips or visit

Mark A Herndon, CPG

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