British Nightclub Impresario Peter Stringfellow, an Early Backer of Beatles and Rolling Stones, Dies at 77

Tim Roney/Getty Images
Peter Stringfellow

Boy George and BBC Radio DJ Tony Blackburn among those to pay tribute.

British nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow has died at the age of 77, following a secret battle with cancer, a spokesperson has announced.

Best known for running a string of eponymously-named lap dancing clubs, the self-styled 'King of Clubs' started his career in the entertainment industry -- after a short spell in prison for handling stolen goods -- by booking bands to play clubs his home city of Sheffield.

The Beatles, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix were among his early bookings with Stringfellow later recalling how he rang Brian Epstein from a phone box and negotiated an £85.00 fee for the then little-known Fab Four to play Sheffield's Azena Ballroom. Soon after agreeing the booking, Beatlemania erupted, landing the flamboyant entrepreneur the first of many successful business deals.

"Brian (Epstein) gave me his word and he stuck to it. I picked the Beatles up in a Ford Anglia," Stringfellow told The Yorkshire Post in 2014.  "It was just pandemonium when the Beatles came on stage. It was the most exciting night of my life," he remembered some fifty years later.

The mid to late 1960s also saw Howlin' Wolf, Wilson Pickett, The Small Faces, Stevie Wonder, The Searchers, Elton John, The Who, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones perform at Stringfellow's various Sheffield venues, The Black Cat Club, The Blue Moon and King Mojo Club.

Relocating to the British capital, after stints running venues in Manchester and Leeds, Stringfellow opened the first of his eponymous chain of topless strip clubs in London's West End in 1980.

It quickly became a mecca for celebrities, movie stars and touring musicians with Stringfellows clubs subsequently opening in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Paris. The owner boasted that Prince, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones and professor Stephen Hawking were among the stars who had frequented his clubs.

Among those paying tribute to the night club owner was Boy George, who tweeted that Stingfellow was "one of Sheffield's finest. What a character." BBC radio DJ Tony Blackburn called him a "terrific guy who lived life to the full and was a wonderful person to be with. He was always full of fun and, to me, was a big part of the 60s and 70s."

Stringfellow is survived by his wife Bella Wright, and his four children Rosabella, Angelo, Scott and Karen.