But the day Stevey Hay woke up to find a letter telling him he was being made redundant turned out to have an up side, too.
No sooner had the Edinburgh blues singer and guitarist discovered he was losing his community centre job in Muirhouse than another, bigger delivery arrived. It was an early 50th birthday present from a friend in London, a brand-new Fender Stratocaster.
"My pal Tim knew my 50th was coming up in November but he also knew I had a fairly prestigious gig early last month, supporting Matt Schofield at the Voodoo Rooms, and he wanted me to have a shiny new guitar for the occasion," says Hay. "So I found myself standing with a redundancy letter in one hand and a beautiful new guitar in the other and thinking: 'There has to be a sign here'. So I'm taking it as a positive and embracing the future, and we'll see where it takes us."
Job loss aside, things have generally been looking up for Hay recently. Having taken a break from music in 2009, he started to feel his way back into the local scene early last year, and after meeting Neil Warden, the long-time guitarist for the late Tam White, he found himself leading a new band, Shades of Blue. Then, with Warden's encouragement, he went into the studio in April and recorded the album he'd always wanted to make, surrounded by musicians he'd always wanted to work with. It's been, he says, not so much his second wind as his 15th.
Fascinated by the guitar since he was old enough to try to play the one his father left lying around but forbade him to touch, Hay came to the blues early, although he didn't realise at the time that was what he was hearing.
"I always gravitated to what I found out later were the blues notes in a tune," he says. "I'd often find myself watching a movie, like From Here to Eternity where Montgomery Clift plays that trumpet solo, and get really excited by the music. It didn't have to be a guitar playing. It was just those particular notes that attracted me.
"Fortunately my dad was away at sea most of the time, so I managed to learn the basics on his guitar and then I got one of my own."
His first band at the age of 16 was Edinburgh punk outfit, The Exploited, which lasted a year before he moved on to blues bands including Texas Breakfast, Mister Rhythm, who supported Robert Cray at the Usher Hall, and then, in deference to his guitar idol, Stevie Ray Vaughan, his own Stevey Hay and the RayVons.
The Cray gig was great experience but an even better one followed the phone call that took Hay off on a tour of Scotland with legendary blues harmonica player and singer Charlie Musselwhite.
"I thought I was going to be playing guitar in his band," says Hay. "But it turned out that I was the band. It was just the two of us and he didn't tell me anything. No song titles, no keys. All he said was: 'When I put my foot down, we start, and when I put my foot down again, we stop'. His harmonicas were all labelled, so I was able to watch which one he chose and follow him. I must have looked a sight because I was sweating like anything. But after about three days he started telling me first-hand stories about the blues guys he'd worked with – John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, all these names – and I relaxed a bit because I must have passed the test if he was willing to share those memories with me."
Hay's tales of working with Musselwhite didn't impress his own son, a budding harmonica player. Watching Musselwhite on the Blues Brothers 2000 on DVD at home, Hay pointed to Musselwhite and said: "That's the guy I toured with back in the 1980s", to which an unconvinced "Yeah, right" was the only response until Musselwhite, who has stayed in touch , sent Hay Jnr an email telling him to do what his dad tells him and keep practising his harmonica.
The late Edinburgh bluesmen Tam White and Ronnie Tait were always supportive of Hay, especially White, who was in the audience as he was singing White's signature song, Caledonia, and feared the worst.
"I thought he was going to tell me to stick to the guitar," says Hay. "But he said: 'Nice singing, Gadgie', which was the ultimate compliment. People have said that they hear a bit of Tam in the new album and that's fine with me because, when it comes to singers, I learned more from these two Edinburgh guys, Tam and Ronnie, than I did from the Americans. They were masters of their craft, irrespective of where they came from, and if I'm following in their footsteps, I won't go too far wrong."
As a full-time musician, Hay will now have more time to work on songwriting. The new album, Shades of Blue, is a mix of originals and covers of songs by favourites including BB King, Albert Collins and Ry Cooder, but he's already planning all original material for the next one.
"I really feel that, between losing my job and finding guys like Neil Warden to play with, I've been given a chance to do something," he says. "I have music in my head 24/7 for the first time since I was a teenager. I remember looking around the studio when we made the new album, seeing guys like Dave Swanson on drums, Brian Kellock on piano and John Burgess on sax, and thinking, Stevey boy, you've got it made. So I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next."
Stevey Hay's Shades of Blue play Whigham's Jazz Club, Edinburgh, on Saturday afternoon and the Constitution Bar, Leith, in the evening.