The Woodhaven resident was featured on truTV’s reality series “Hardcore Pawn,” which follows the daily goings-on at American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit. He worked at the shop for 25 years and was a manager before being fired last year.
The decision came as a surprise to Pyle, who said he can’t legally discuss much of what transpired.
“’Hardcore Pawn’ came to an abrupt end,” he said. “I was not expecting that.”
After kicking around some ideas, a plan began to take shape in his mind that would have him using his skills in precious metals and negotiating in a new way.
“I decided to take it on the road and find things,” he said. “Everybody is doing these gold-selling parties now, so I decided to find a new twist on that.”
He started his own gold business in Los Angeles, and rather than find someone to take his precious metals to the refinery, he decided to cut out the middle man.
“Most people think jewelry is the upper end of it, but I found that it only accounts for 3 1/2 percent of the national consumption of precious metals,” he said. “I started thinking about where the other 96 1/2 percent was going, and that morphed into what it is now — finding precious metals in weird, interesting places.”
Soon the National Geographic Channel came calling.
“It all twisted into this idea, and shortly after National Geographic called and asked what I was up to,” he said. “It’s not like I was out there looking for a new show. … I was just trying to find a way to support my family and it all fell in my lap.”
As fate would have it, his outgoing TV persona helped him win another starring role.
He’s now part of “Meltdown,” a new show on the National Geographic Channel that follows him and two other urban treasure hunters searching for precious metals in unlikely places, hoping to turn junk into gold.
“I feel blessed that all of this has happened,” he said. “The support I’ve had over the past year when people realized I didn’t work at the pawn shop anymore has just been overwhelming.”
“Meltdown” premiered Oct. 31, with the channel ordering 12 episodes right off the bat.
“That’s huge,” Pyle said, adding that most shows initially are picked up for two or three episodes.
“Either they thought it was a great idea or they’re just gambling on a new way to go about their network,” he said. “Reality TV is a newer thing for National Geographic.
Despite much travel to L.A., Pyle said he doesn’t plan to become a permanent West Coast resident.
“Since the airing of the new show, I’ve been going back and forth a lot,” he said. “When I go out there, I usually stay a while, but I’m still a Downriver boy and I always will be.”
The new show finds Pyle combing the country for precious metals in some very unexpected — and remote — places.
“When I wake up every morning to follow the leads I’ve been putting together, I never really know where they’re going to lead me,” he said. “It’s not like I’m stuck in one building anymore; it’s almost like being a detective of sorts.”
The most recent episode, “Ready to Rock-It,” which aired Thursday, sent him hunting for old rocket parts in the middle of a desert.
“One day I actually spent 16 1/2 hours in the Mojave Desert,” he said. “Now I know how people die in the desert.”
He visited a rocket launch testing facility and was taken out to El Ranchito Rokete, home to Waldo Stakes, who’s intent on breaking the land speed record by putting a rocket engine into a car.
“He’s a rocket scientist for real,” Pyle said. “When NASA can’t figure something out, they call him.”
His new role provides Pyle with a chance to use skills he developed during his 25 years in the pawn trade.
“You have to figure out your niche and hone it to the business’ best interest,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve done a lot of negotiating. Now, once I find who owns the product I’m looking for, I have to buy it from them and I’m not in a building behind bulletproof glass and surrounded by guards anymore.”
Researching items that came into the pawn shop also translates to his new job.
“I’m using the Internet and looking through books to find where these products might be,” he said. “It’s not like you can take an urban prospecting 101 class; it’s a day-to-day learning process.”
That process is an educated guessing game, according to Pyle — whether it’s determining the worth or purity of an ounce of gold or platinum, how much to invest in tools and equipment or how much to pay for what he wants.
“I’m getting to do some of the coolest things that most people in the world will never be able to do,” he said.
A drummer for more than two decades, Pyle is keeping busy on the musical front, as well.
He plays drums with the band SuperLast, performing around the Detroit area with acts such as Kid Rock, The Beastie Boys, Ted Nugent and Clutch.
The group released its self-titled CD last year at the Magic Bag in Ferndale.
“I’m always going to be working with the band,” Pyle said. “It’s a huge part of my life … and National Geographic has been great about working with my schedule.”
SuperLast features lead vocalist Mike Azuri; Pyle on drums; John “Johnny Q” Quiroz on guitar and backing vocals; Tim Reamer on guitar, keyboards and mandolin; and Tim Downs on bass.
The group recently hired a company to track its music on radio stations across the country, and plans a national tour next year.
And Pyle has his hand in another new venture to boot — a new clothing company called RPM Gear with Darren Hamilton, owner of Detroit Muscle.
“He’s a good friend of mine and contacted me about a year ago about starting a clothing line,” he said. “It’s not something I ever really thought about, but it sounded great.”
The idea for his own line eventually turned into an entire company.
“So many doors have opened up out of nowhere, and I thank God for that,” he said. “My perspective is that I’m going to walk through every one of them.”
“Meltdown” airs at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Thursdays on the National Geographic Channel.
Visit natgeotv.com for more information about the show.