John Showman

John Showman

There’s a reason you don’t often see Showman Cues on the secondary market. It’s because once you have one, you hang on to it. In this month’s “Meet the Cue Maker” we are putting the spotlight on John Showman of Showman Cues.

John, 54 resides in Safety Harbor, Florida with his daughter Beliza and sons Christopher and Jonathan. Originally from Pennsylvania, John always had artistic abilities. From a young age, he enjoyed painting and sculpting, but as a teenager he made his way into the world of pool and got hooked on the game. Always interested in building and creating, he quickly realized he was fascinated by pool cues more than anything else. In the mid 80’s he was in high school and began learning to put on tips and then progressed to cue repair. By 1989, John moved to Florida and met cue maker Rocky Tillis. They quickly became friends and he gained Rocky as a mentor. At that time due to his health, Rocky was no longer building cues but allowed John to pick his brain on the world of cue making. It wasn’t long until he learned enough to make his first cue 3 years later at the age of 25. While he was honing his cue building skills, he maintained employment at a pharmaceutical plant making prescription drugs. It was in 2003 when he decided to go full time as a cue maker and established Showman Cues. He now maintains his shop converted from a one-car garage that is connected to his home in Safety Harbor, Florida.

John starts the cue building process by allowing the wood to sit for at least 6 months before even beginning to make a cue. His primary concern is the weight of the shaft as it “determines the balance of the whole cue”. In the beginning before doing everything himself, he started with blanks made by either Burton Spain or Brunswick Titlists. Now he creates most components by hand or by using manual machines such as a pantograph which is what he uses for inlays.  Overall, the only parts of the cue he doesn’t make are the tips and bumper. Even the joint screws he makes himself from threaded rods. His builds tend to be more traditional styles using natural woods like Brazilian rosewood, ebony and maple. You’ll often see them consisting of 4 points and 5 veneers with his favorite being a 4-point Hoppe style cue. He finishes his cues off with his signature located on the joint pin, butt bolt and brass insert. He can even personalize it further with his signature joint protectors. I was curious to know what Showman would look for in other custom cues. He said that he can appreciate fancy and artistic designs. However, he personally finds more value in taking it back to the basics and focusing on the quality and execution of the craft. He naturally gravitates toward and admires the works of Rocky Tillis, Gus [Szamboti], George [Balabushka], Ernie [Gutierrez] and also Jerry Franklin of Southwest Cues because: “He was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and his wife Laurie who is still carrying on the business”.

After nearly 3 decades in the business, John states his career highlight was watching Billiard Hall of Famer Rodney Morris use his custom built original to win the 2006 Seminole Florida Pro Tour Stop. To this day Morris confirms Showman is, “a great guy…lovely human…cues are super solid hitting and just happen to be gorgeous! It’s a cue you can trust.” The typical price range to get your hands on a Showman cue starts at about $3,000 and goes up from there depending on the build. Although that price tag may seem steep and tempt some to keep theirs locked away, John gave me this analogy: “Cues are like ladies’ shoes; they may be expensive, but they are made to be used and aren’t bought as an investment”. Point taken. Some cue makers may take pride that customers don’t want to devalue one of their highly coveted cues, however, John likes it best when his cues are used for their intended purpose: runnin’ racks! After making customs for a few big names such as Rodney Morris, George “Ginky” SanCouci and even Joe Rogan, you can imagine what high demand Showman cues are in. With a yearly production of 25 or less he hasn’t taken new orders in over 15 years. While he does have one broker in Japan, the best way to get your hands on a Showman cue is the rare instance of stumbling upon a collector willing to part with his (or hers respectively). That takes us full circle. If you are fortunate enough to have a Showman cue in your possession, you are definitely going to want to hang on to that one.

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