After his work with Parker, Gillespie led other small combos (including ones with Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, Lalo Schifrin, Ray Brown, Kenny Clarke, James Moody, J.J. Johnson, and Yusef Lateeef) and finally put together his first successful big band. Gillespie and his band tried to popularize bop and make Gillespie a symbol of the new music. He also appeared frequently as a soloist with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic. He also headlined the 1946 independently produced musical revue film Jivin’ in Be-Bop.
In 1948 Gillespie was involved in a traffic accident when the bicycle he was riding was bumped by an automobile. He was slightly injured, and found that he could no longer hit the B-flat above high C. He won the case, but the jury awarded him only $1000, in view of his high earnings up to that point.
In 1956 he organized a band to go on a State Department tour of the Middle East which was extremely well received internationally and earned him the nickname “the Ambassador of Jazz”. During this time, he also continued to lead a big band that performed throughout the United States and featured musicians including Pee Wee Moore and others. This band recorded a live album at the 1957 Newport jazz festival that featured Mary Lou Williams as a guest artist on piano.