This page compiled from information and images supplied by a former employee of American Showster, Mr David Schwab of SGD Luthiers, email 3/8/2011.
The original American Showster “company got started in about 1984 in Maplewood NJ. It was started by Rick Excellente, who was originally from the Jersey Shore. I worked at the Maplewood store front, building the 57 Chevy guitars until we moved to Palisades Park NJ, into a factory setting. The Maplewood store as a regular music store. I also did repairs and stuff like that there. He closed the store on Springfield Ave at that time. About that time Kramer started distribution. Rick was friends with them and they painted the very first Chevy prototypes. The first couple was hand caved by an artist in South Jersey, who’s name escapes me at the moment. Also around the time we moved to Palisades Park I started designing a more standard looking guitar that would be easier to build, and still utilize Rick’s patents on the metal loading. These became the American Showster Kramer guitars. I left the company right before they were released and didn’t see them until I was reading a Musicians’s Friend catalog!
Rick was not a good businessman, and eventually he must have lost his patents to the new owners, Bill Meeker and David Haines. Those Chevy guitars looked very different from the originals. They also did the gas tank guitar, which was not one of the original designs .
So a lot of the Chevy guitars were made by Rick, or whom ever he could get to work for him (until he neglected to pay them, as he did with me). I left and started SGD Lutherie with John Gagliano who also worked at Showster. I have another old friend who worked there as well before I was there.
Here’s Rick on the right. The guy on the left runs Time Electronics, who worked on the first few prototypes for Rick.
This was at the NAMM show. This was right before I started there. The left handed model was supposed to be for Elliot Easton from the Cars, but Rick sold it to some kid that came to the shop one day.
An unfinished AS-57 on my work bench. I plan on finishing it one of these days.
I built this guitar for Robin Crosby. Most of the AS-57s had EMG-81s, but this had a custom wound Duncan .
American Showster 1986-2004
In 1986 American Showster guitars was purchased by Bill Meeker and David Haines, Bayville, New Jersey in 1986. Company survived through to 2004. [Source and images internet archive and ebay]
Standard specifications across all models :
Alder Body , maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard, 25 1/2″ scale / 12″ radius, 22 medium jumbo frets, Shaller tuning gears, Shaller bar stop, Shaller tunamatic bridge, Showster V stop, Master volume/tone control, A S Custom wound pickups.
Reviews are at Harmony Central
Note in 2010 on ebay “new” examples of American Showster guitars started to appear, claiming to have been assembled in the last 3 months using original 1998 parts.
American Showster models:
American Showster The AS57
American Showster Biker
American Showster Ice Pick
American Showster Peace guitar
American Showster Icepick
American Showster Savant
The Kramer “American Showster” Series.
In 1986, Kramer joined forces with Rick Excellente and Showster guitars to develop a series of guitars with metal as part of the body mass . They were made in Korea and appeared in 1989. Three types of Showsters-the Metalist, Metalist XML and the Savant were released. [Source: Vintage Kramer]
See Kramer Savant III being restored at “Starships of the 3rd Fleet”