Paul Fox, guitarist with pioneering British punk band the Ruts, has died, aged 56.

Fox had been diagnosed with cancer in May 2007. He died at home in Uxbridge, West London, in the early hours of Sunday morning (Oct. 21).

The Ruts, name-checked as influences by several subsequent acts from New Model Army to Nirvana, emerged from the London punk scene in 1978. The quartet's musical proficiency and shared love of reggae marked them out from many of their punk contemporaries, and they were strongly associated with the Rock Against Racism movement which emerged that year.

The act regularly shared bills with London Reggae act Misty In Roots, and the first Ruts single "In A Rut"/"H-Eyes" appeared on Misty's own People Unite label in early 1979.

Both sides of the single illustrated the band's grasp of the "classic" punk sound and its love of dub reggae. Its chart breakthrough came in June 1979 after signing to Virgin, which released the Ruts' best-known track, the politically-driven single "Babylon's Burning."

The band toured extensively and its debut album "The Crack" made the U.K. top 20 in October 1979. However, singer Malcolm Owen's death from a heroin overdose brought the band's career to a premature close.

Fox and the surviving members attempted to continue the band's legacy, releasing two albums as Ruts DC in 1981 and 1982, but the group finally spilt in 1983. Fox subsequently joined Rolling Stones-influenced West London band Dirty Strangers and then unsuccessfully launched his own band Choir Malitia.

Ruts drummer Dave Ruffy subsequently had the most successful career of the three surviving band members as a member of Aztec Camera (1982-1988) and then as a session drummer.

Ruffy praises Fox's inspirational qualities, telling Billboard.biz: "When I met Paul, back in 1973, he was such an enormous and positive character -- he filled me with the confidence I needed to perform and to pursue a musical career."

During a period of what Fox subsequently described as semi-retirement from music, he worked as a carpenter from the mid-1990s onwards, but in 2006 was persuaded to put together a band to play Ruts material live. That quintet, Foxy's Ruts, included the guitarist's elder son Lawrence on drums.

After Fox was diagnosed with cancer, north London music promoter and writer Sarah Pink of Peafish Promotions organised a line-up of fellow musicians -- many of whom had toured alongside the Ruts in their early days -- to play a benefit gig at London's Carling Academy Islington in July. The acts Pink recruited included the Damned, U.K. Subs, Tom Robinson and John Otway.

Fox also joined his ex-bandmates for a set of Ruts songs, with U.S. hardcore veteran Henry Rollins taking Owen's role. Rollins had described the Ruts as "one of my favorite bands of all time, period."

Pink, a friend of the band, says the Islington show was recorded for DVD release. "All proceeds from it will be going to a cancer charity," she notes. "We are also planning a download single release from the gig as well as the first definitive Ruts documentary. All of these will serve as a fitting tribute to Paul and hopefully raise awareness of one of the most influential but underrated bands from the U.K."

Fox's own final studio recordings, made earlier this year, were with a new band the guitarist had formed with members of West London group the Bobs, named the Dubcats. The resulting album, "Lockdown" is as yet unreleased, but in one of his last postings on his MySpace site, Fox described it as "one of the best albums of my career." He added: "The music is straight from the soul and the spirit is as pure as it gets."

Fox is survived by his wife Sharon and sons Lawrence and William.