Even if it had come from a big-time rock and roll promoter with an established track record in promoting world-class events it would still have been an audacious request. Coming from the 23-year old proprietor of a small printing business on the Isle of Wight, it sounded impossibly ambitious. The request was: would Bob Dylan like to play a festival on the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1969?

Ray Foulk’s past experience of running live music events was restricted to promoting a few concerts, and a one-night mini festival in 1968. Even acknowledging his achievement in booking the San Francisco psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane for that show, what on earth led him to believe that he could now bag one of the biggest stars in the world? After all, Dylan had not performed in public in the three years since he played the Royal Albert Hall on 27 May 1966, shortly after which he broke his neck in a motorbike accident.

Bob Dylan with Ray Foulk. (Alamy)

On top of all that, Ray’s festival would take place a few days after the mammoth one that was being held at Woodstock, close to Dylan’s remote forest hideaway, and located there with the intention of winkling him out. Woodstock promised to be the greatest, most star-studded rock and roll event the world had ever seen. Would Bob Dylan really turn his back on all that to play a little island off the south coast of England? Surely not.

Yet, when the request was made to Dylan’s management, Ray and his brothers Ron and Bill were not dismissed out of hand. In fact, they had unwittingly offered Dylan an escape from a situation he dreaded. He felt Woodstock’s organisers were trying to force him to come out to play, and he didn’t like that. Also, playing the Isle of Wight, where he would be the undisputed star, allowed him to create his own festival, side-stepping the pressure of performing alongside the likes of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Santana, Richie Havens, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

The 1970 festival crowd. (Roland Godefroy under Creative Commons)

After the Isle of Wight, Dylan was to give no full concert performance until January 1974, four-and-a-half years later, meaning his island appearance was his sole gig from the Summer of Love right through to the rise of Punk.

It was only on 16 July, just forty-five days before the show, that Ray got a telegram confirming: ‘Dylan and Band will accept IOW Aug 31’. It meant a scramble to have the 41-acre site, a natural amphitheatre at Wootton Manor Farm, Woodside Bay, ready for the event. There was a vast cast to organise, including The Who, The Nice, the Moody Blues and Joe Cocker. The Foulk brothers organised all this from their former bedrooms on the top floor of the family home, Tavistock House in Totland Bay.

A 1970 souvenir programme.

They rented a pleasant home for Dylan at Foreland Farm, Bembridge. It had a swimming pool, tennis court, and a stone barn in which Dylan and the Band rehearsed.

Dylan was as big a draw for other musicians as he was for press and fans. Three of the Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, visited him at Foreland Farm, Paul McCartney only staying away because his wife Linda had given birth to daughter Mary on August 28.

Harrison, who came with his wife, Pattie Boyd, brought with him an acetate of the forthcoming Beatles album Abbey Road, which had only been finalised the day before. He and Dylan spent hours playing acoustic guitars and singing close harmony together on songs such as The Everly Brothers’ All I Have To Do Is Dream. It was a partnership they would rekindle when both joined the band The Traveling Wilburys along with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, in 1988.

Dylan was supported by The Who. (Jim Summaria under Creative Commons)

John Lennon came with Yoko One, his helicopter landing on the lawn, the downdraft turning the flowers in the carefully cultivated garden into, says Foulk, ‘a confetti of decimated petals and leaves’.

When it came to delivering Dylan to the festival, Ray Foulk drove him in a battered old white Ford Transit van, Bob and his wife Sara sitting in the front passenger seats. In the back, on an improvised and unsecured bench seat taken from a Ford Zodiac, sat John, Yoko, Ringo and his wife Maureen. Disaster almost struck when Ray had to brake suddenly, then lurched forward, at a junction. As he writes in Stealing Dylan from Woodstock:

‘[I heard] a resounding bang and crash along with screaming and shouting. The Zodiac seat had tipped back and there was John Lennon and the rest of the Beatles party stranded literally like beetles on their backs, legs flailing around ... everyone found this hilarious, including Bob.’

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in the crowd. (Joost Evers under Creative Commons)

Four songs recorded at the festival appeared on Dylan’s 1970 album Self Portrait: She Belongs to Me, Like a Rolling Stone, The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo) and Minstrel Boy. The whole seventeen-song set later appeared on a bonus CD with the luxury version of 2013’s Another Self-Portrait: Bootleg Series Volume 10.

Andy Bull's book Secret Isle of Wight is available for purchase now.