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The Stars Of American Pickers Before All The Fame

For a few years now, the TV show American Pickers has been running around the United States digging up little pieces of history, learning fun stories, then spinning them into cash. But who are these representatives of the picking arts, and what were they like before they started carting cameras everywhere?

Mike Wolfe

Mike Wolfe was born on June 11, 1964 in Bettendorf, Iowa, not far away from LeClaire, where he'd someday start his flagship business. He was picking almost straight out of diapers, having repaired and flipped a bicycle he found lying around his neighborhood at the age of six for five dollars—a princely sum for a little kid. Not only that, it was the catalyst to his dream job, so much so that he has worked on a book specifically aimed to teach the art of picking to kids.

Also ingrained in him from childhood was a long-running interest in bikes. In the '90s, he owned two biking stores and competed in races, and his ventures into professional picking started with quests for old bikes. However, the allure of picking grew too strong for Mike and he felt the road calling, so he bought a van and really got into it. A few road trips later, somebody suggested to Wolfe that he should take along a video camera, and his friend Frank Fritz started joining in as well. The pair made a lot of home movies and pitches over four years before the History Channel bit the bait and greenlighted the show.

Frank Fritz

Next, we shift the spotlight to Mike Wolfe's childhood friend since middle school, Frank Fritz. He was born on October 11, 1965 in Davenport, Iowa. Most of his life was spent helping others learn to be safe, as Fritz worked as a fire safety inspector for a quarter century, which led to his first bits of dabbling in picking by finding antiques related to firefighting. Like his friend Wolfe, Fritz also has a passion for motorcycles, having bought his first Harley-Davidson as a teenager. These days, he frequently attends the famed Sturgis motorcycle rally, and at one point was president of the Davenport American Bikers Aimed Toward Education chapter, and even gave motorcycle safety lessons as well.

He finally got into the picking business full time when he opened the shop Frank Fritz Finds in 2002, which is still in Savannah, Illinois. He and Wolfe kept crossing paths, and eventually both men started tagging together professionally and filming their exploits, leading into the American Pickers show.

Danielle Colby Cushman

Danielle Colby Cushman is the constant presence minding the store in LeClaire while Wolfe and Fritz are out exploring their next big item, as well as the one who sends them toward said items. Appropriately enough, that wouldn't have been the case if she hadn't ran into Mike Wolfe at a yard sale.

Born on December 3, 1975, Colby was raised in a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, but her interests became a lot more varied outside of the group. She's also an accomplished burlesque dancer, to the point that she's toured around the country under the name Dannie Diesel (a name she's had since childhood), founded her own troupe, Burlesque Le Moustache, and opened her own dance school in Chicago, Dannie Diesel's Bump n' Grind Academy. She's also a former roller derby girl, a hobby that spanned three years until injuries put an end to it.

Lauren Wray Grisham

One of the managers of the Pickers' Nashville outpost, Lauren Wray Graham also got into the picking business early, through her explorations of old abandoned farmhouses in her hometown of Athens, Alabama, working a pawn shop with her dad, and touring antique stores with her mom.

When it came time to get her college education, Grisham moved to Tennessee, out near Nashville. Before she fell in with the Pickers, Grisham had been serving a stint with Manuel, the famed rhinestone-loving costume designer who's made clothing for rock stars, country legends, Presidents, and even Salvador Dali (we are so serious). However, she decided she wanted a "big, new project," and the Pickers just happened to be expanding their Antique Archaeology business into Nashville, setting up shop inside a former car factory. She joined the team in 2011, and has been the top representative of the Pickers' southern branch ever since.

Robbie Wolfe

Mike's brother Robbie Wolfe is occasionally seen on the show working to help the Pickers, especially fulfilling since he shares an interest with Mike in old vehicles, though Robbie prefers automobiles to motorcycles. However, when he's not out with his brother and the rest of the Pickers crew, Robbie is back in Davenport, where he's been running his landscaping company RJ Wolfe and Sons, which he founded in the '90s and is still running to this day. They offer an impressively varied list of services including pool installation, putting in decks, paving driveways new and old, hooking up lighting, creating "outdoor living spaces," and more. If you're near Iowa and you like Pickers, Robbie Wolfe can fix up your yard and buy some junk from you. Win win.