Peter Stringfellow, Britain's legendary nightclub owner who pioneered striptease, died Thursday at the age of 77 after suffering from cancer, his publicist said.

He began his career in the 1960s booking acts such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, but made his name with glitzy clubs filled with scantily clad women, becoming the first to win a licence for nude shows.

"It's very sad news. He passed away in the early hours of this morning. It was kept very private, he didn't want to tell," said his publicist Matt Glass.

With his long hair and habit of posing on a gold throne with a gaggle of beautiful girls, Stringfellow came to personify a particular type of playboy debauchery and was often a target of campaigners.

But those who knew him say he was warm and kind, and he claimed he was a feminist.

He was a firm supporter of the Conservative party, in particular Margaret Thatcher, but threatened to quit over his opposition to Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

Stringfellow was born in Sheffield, northern England, in 1940, and began booking acts in small venues in the city -- some, the Beatles, turning out to be huge stars.

The son of a steelworker, Stringfellow had a brief brush with the law, serving a prison sentence in 1962 for selling stolen carpets, which he said was a sharp lesson.

He opened his first eponymous club in Covent Garden, in London's West End, in 1980, and also bought The Hippodrome, starting its first ever gay night.

Other clubs followed in New York, Miami and Beverly Hills, although the expansion was too quick and he was declared bankrupt.

Back in London, he started again, providing what he called "adult entertainment" with topless dancers, and later becoming the first night club owner to secure a licence for fully nude dancers.

Stringfellow claimed to have welcomed many A-list stars into his clubs, everyone from late physicist Stephen Hawking to Marvin Gaye, Tom Jones, Prince and Rod Stewart.

He underwent treatment for lung cancer after being diagnosed in 2008, but kept it a secret, and the seriousness of his latest illness was also kept under wraps.

He was married three times and is survived by his wife, Bella, and four children.