On Friday, when the last song had ended at Matty T's Roadhouse U.S.A., Long Island's country music venue, owner Matthew Taormino was going to take a hand-painted business name sign as a souvenir.
Tuesday, an employee told him the sign had been stolen.
"I just felt disappointed and disheartened," said Taormino, 49, whose late father, Matty, opened the Deer Park club in 1972. "They stole a part of my dad."
The country nightclub went by the name Matty T's Nashville U.S.A. 30 years ago when a young Taormino paid an artist more than $200 to create a wooden sign, about 5 feet wide by 3 feet high. When he first saw it, the sign was what Taormino had imagined -- it had bull's horns, a tribute to his father, who collected them.
The sign touted live music Wednesday through Saturday. Some of country's greats -- Billy Ray Cyrus, Mark Chesnutt and Keith Urban -- hung out and played at Matty T's after performing at larger Island venues. Urban's autographed guitar hangs inside the club, among other signed items from country singers.
"It really reflects a time gone by," Taormino said of the sign.
On the bar's Facebook page, fans posted outrage. "What a total loser," one wrote. "So much for taking pictures outside the bar tonight," another said.
Interest in country music has peaked and waned in cycles over the years.
Two weeks ago, Taormino walked through the club with his youngest child, Danielle, 17, as she eyed the things she wanted.
"Can you make sure the sign comes home?" the father said his daughter asked, and he promised, "Yes, on the last day of business."
He thinks someone with a "shallow mind" stole the sign as a club memento. He believes the thief will be reported after showing it off to friends or after someone sees the one-of-a-kind Matty T's artifact.
With or without the sign, the honky-tonk club's last night, dubbed "The Last Stand Rockabilly Rumble," will feature classic country music. The Buzzards, known for singing old favorites, may perform hits from Johnny Cash and George Jones.
"The place is bigger than all of us," Taormino said. "The sign is not the place. . . . We're going to go out the way we wanted to go out. We never, ever changed what we were there for, and it was country music."