Darnell began his career in a band named The In-Laws with his half-brother in 1965, which disbanded so August could pursue a career as an English teacher. He obtained a masters degree, but in 1974 again formed a band with his half-brother under the name Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. They played to some initial success, reaching a gold and Top 40-charting album with their debut release, but could not match this on subsequent releases.
Darnell began producing for other artists before adopting the name Kid Creole (adapted from the Elvis Presley film King Creole) in 1980, and forming The Coconuts, a trio of female backing vocalist/dancers, including his wife Adriana Kaegi, and a band including his Savannah Band associate vibraphone player Andy Hernandez aka Coati Mundi, who served as co-leader as well as musical director and arranger , female lead vocalist Fonda Rae who after leaving to pursue a solo career was replaced by Lori Eastside , Bass player Carol Colman and legendary Jamaican drummer Winston Grennan. After the departure of Lori Eastside , Cheryl Poirier joined that year as lead vocalist of the Coconuts, followed by Taryn Hagey as "Coconut #3" on background vocals in 1981. This line-up remained in place throughout the band's heyday. Hagey left the group in 1985 and was replaced by Janique Svedberg. Among the recurring Coconuts is Danish actress and musical star Gry Bay, who made headlines with her starring role in the feature film All About Anna (2005).
Their debut album was the heavily disco-influenced Off the Coast of Me, which was critically well-received but not successful commercially. The second release Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places was a concept album matched with a New York Public Theatre stage production; it received rave reviews, and Darnell was recognized as a clever lyricist and astute composer, arranger and producer. As in the aforementioned "Off The Coast of Me" the album also featured Andy Hernandez (aka Coati Mundi) as an arranger and co-producer in addition to a couple of his compositions. The album charted briefly, and subsequently Coati Mundi's "Me No Pop I", though not originally on the album, became a Top 40 UK hit single. Their breakthrough came with 1982's Tropical Gangsters, which hit #3 in the UK and spun off three Top 10 hits with "Stool Pigeon", "Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy" and "I'm a Wonderful Thing, Baby", written by musical director Peter Schott. "Dear Addy" also made the Top 40. In the US the album was retitled Wise Guy and reached #145, and "I'm a Wonderful Thing, Baby" flirted with the R&B charts. 1983's Doppelganger was a relative commercial disappointment, despite the single "There's Something Wrong in Paradise" reaching the Top 40.
Kid Creole and The Coconuts made a performance appearance in the 1984 film, "Against All Odds," and in the 2007 film We Own The Night.
Darnell and Kaegi divorced in 1985, though she remained with the band. She and Cheryl Poirier also formed their own group, Boomerang, with Perri Lister, which released an album on the Atlantic label in 1986. Darnell continued Kid Creole and the Coconuts and in the mid to late 1980s contributed to various film soundtracks and other such projects. He appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1986 and in this period released the albums In Praise of Older Women and Other Crimes and I, Too, Have Seen the Woods, neither of which charted despite the hit "Endicott". 1990's Private Waters in the Great Divide had a hit with single "The Sex of It", a song written by Prince and recorded at Paisley Park Studios with Sheila E. It reached Top 40 in the US and UK and is to date one of his best-known songs.
Darnell used to reside in the Dinnington area of South Yorkshire but now lives in London (and occasionally Sweden and Denmark), and still tours with the Coconuts occasionally. He is currently collaborating with writer/producer Peter Schott on a Contemporary Opera, to be produced by Son Of Kong Productions.The project features vocals/guitar by former creole band member and rising star "Mark Anthony Jones".
In 2008 Kid Creole toured the UK whilst starring in the stage show "Oh! What a Night", a Disco musical produced by Random Concerts.
Dario Darnell, son of Kid Creole, is also in the music industry.